Arts & Entertainment

Guatemalan horror film ‘La llorona’ serves cathartic purpose, director says

By Emiliano Castro Saenz

Guatemala City, Aug 18 (EFE).- Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante said he is proud of the 11 nominations his horror film “La llorona” (The Weeping Woman) has received in the eighth edition of the Platino Awards for Ibero-American Cinema, a haul matched only by the Colombian drama film “El olvido que seremos” (Forgotten We’ll Be).

“It’s very nice” and a recognition he values very highly, Bustamante said in an interview with Efe.

“La llorona” received nods in several major categories, including best picture, best director (Bustamante) and best actress (Maria Mercedes Coroy) when those nominations were unveiled on July 19.

The Platino Awards will be handed out on Oct. 3 at Madrid’s IFEMA Municipal Palace in a ceremony that will be aired by 19 television networks worldwide.

Bustamante, 44, said his intention with that 2019 film was to “make a picture that was like a cathartic ritual,” adding that “all of Ibero-America, Spain included, needs that catharsis in light of those oppressive systems and those dictators that … screwed us so much.”

The crimes carried out by 20th-century dictatorial regimes in most countries of the region left a scar “on the families that were destroyed,” the director said.

In “La llorona,” Bustamante combines the Mesoamerican legend of a female ghost who mourns the children she drowned with a soul-searching examination of the disappearances and killings of thousands of rural indigenous civilians carried out by Guatemalan government forces in the western Ixil region.

As part of a campaign against a leftist guerrilla movement that was one of the bloodiest episodes of Guatemala’s 1960-1996 internal armed conflict, the military executed a scorched-earth policy that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,700 people.

“It screwed us (because) they made us believe that what they did was good, and if you notice there are a lot of people in Guatemala who are still defending that, not realizing that in defending it they lose their humanity,” Bustamante said.

Other honors received by “La llorona” include nominations for Best Ibero-American Film at the 2021 Goya Awards and Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language at the 2021 Golden Globes, a pair of recognitions that were unprecedented for Guatemala’s film industry.

Including honors bestowed on his 2015 film “Ixcanul” and his 2019 picture “Temblores,” Bustamante has received hundreds of nominations and nearly 80 international awards, 23 of them for “La llorona.”

“We started from the standpoint that ‘La llorona’ is one of the most widespread Mesoamerican legends, because it extends as far as South America and has even evolved in the direction of misogyny and male chauvinism; that’s why it was important to rewrite it and fill it with beauty,” Bustamante said.

In a country where 200,000 people were killed and 45,000 disappeared during a 36-year armed conflict, magical realism was necessary to “imagine justice,” the director said. “That means we’ll never have it.”

Looking ahead, Bustamante said he also wants to focus on positive elements of the region and its culture and not restrict himself to its more tragic and uglier aspects.

“(I want) to keep showing the things we’re still doing wrong, but I’m also interested in showing who we are and what our roots are, to see if that can be the source of a little pride and love, which is what we don’t have,” the director said. EFE


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