Seattle University’s International Studies Honor Society, Sigma Iota Rho, gathered last week with community members to learn about and discuss the migration of indigenous people at a screening of the drama film “Ixcanul.”
Olivia Mejia and Seth Walker are the president and vice-president of Sigma Iota Rho, The mission of Sigma Iota Rho is to create more awareness for international relations and affairs, as well as geopolitics, by organizing events for their members, as well as other students and staff. On Tuesday, May 23, they presented a movie called “Ixcanul.”
Directed by Jayro Bustamante, “Ixcanul”—which roughly translates to “volcano” in the Mayan language of Kaqchikel—tells the story of a Mayan family as they go through each day in the rural setting of a village built on the slopes of a volcano. The family consists of the protagonist, Maria, and her parents Juana and Manuel. In the film, Juana and Manual arrange a marriage for Maria to secure her future, and remain hopeful for a grandson to carry on the family name. However, Maria hopes to avoid this predestined plan by migrating to the United States.
“It’s important to talk about issues that are prevalent all over the world, and so for this issue specifically I think it’s important to talk about issues about migration.” Walker said.
Walker expressed the importance of addressing indigenous struggles, and said that it is important to gain a perspective on their native language, because “indigenous peoples in most countries have unique and different lived experiences than those who live in cities or bigger communities.” With the lack of diversity in film, movies that feature indigenous peoples as the main characters are significant to the industry.
In many Latin American countries, it is not uncommon for citizens who live in bigger communities or cities to strictly identify themselves by their country. This is because there’s an underlying racism against the indigenous populations of those countries that dates back to when Europeans began to colonize in Latin America.
Movie screenings held by Sigma Iota Rho in the past are a recurring event open to all majors. Last quarter, Sigma Iota Rho took some inspiration from the University of Washington’s School of International Studies, which previously hosted an event called Palestinian Awareness Week.
Around the same time, Sigma Iota Rho showed a movie called “A Borrowed Identity,” directed by Eran Riklis This movie’s protagonist Eyad was a Palestinian-Israeli boy who struggles with issues of language, culture, and identity.
Mejia said the movies were an effective informative tool. “I think movies are a really great medium to educate or learn about something new, and then have a good discussion about the themes, ideas, or, you know, moments in the movie that tie back to what we study or what we’re interested in.” Meja said.
At the showing, the attendees sat in a dimly lit room as the projector in the front of the classroom showed the movie. “Ixcanul” does not shy away from the hard life of the people of Maria’s village. The film’s tactic of show not tell further adds to the story being told. This is can be seen when the family slaughters a pig. The viewer only partially sees it, which allows the audience to fill in the blanks of what they aren’t seeing.
After the movie, sophomore Emma Jensen gave their thoughts on the film. “I just thought that it was a beautifully filmed movie.” Jensen said. “It’s a completely different culture. The way that it’s filmed, what it’s about, it’s all going to be very different.”
When asked how they would recommend this film to other people, Jensen answered, “I think I’d bring up the fact that you’re not going to see anything else like it. It’s a culture that you don’t normally hear about, so I think that it’s always a good idea to expand your horizons.”
Emi Montenegro, an honorary Sigma Iota Rho member, helped at the showing. “I think it’s important, especially on our campus, to realize that realize not just the indigenous people around us, but also their cultures and livelihoods, and the impacts of our actions on them.” Said Montenegro when explaining why the film is important to watch.
“Ixcanul” is available for viewing on Netflix.
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