This stunning first feature by Ángeles Cruz interweaves the stories of three indigenous women across one festival day in a small village in the Cerro Nudo Mixteco mountainous region between Puebla and Oaxaca in Mexico.
María (Sonia Couoh) returns to her home village of San Mateo on the death of her mother. The funeral rituals are elaborate and the grief of her family is palpable but she is not welcomed by her father. She is taken in by Piedad (Eileen Yañez), who also offers sanctuary to Chabela (Aida López), forced to leave home on the return of her husband Esteban (Noé Hernández). As festivities swirls around the town square, Toña (Myriam Bravo) goes in search of her uncle and daughter.
We see the three women’s lives briefly intersect but Cruz lets the story of each unfold in turn. Some scenes are replayed so that we can see where the intersections are occurring; the announcement to the town that they are called to decide on the dispute between Chabela and Esteban, the brash Mariachi sounds of the funeral procession. There is little exposition, instead we quietly watch and slowly understand what connects the women.
Like in the Mexico of La Civil (2021), the machismo culture means that women have little agency. All three women suffer from the entitlement of men and the internalised misogyny of the mothers and sisters who defend them. There are decent men and the community justice where all villagers convene to decide the fate of Esteban and Chabela gives as much voice to women as to men but it can’t protect them from the consequences.
The camera-work is gorgeous, allowing us to soak in the bleached palette and small cultural moments and rituals of the village. With only six professional actors in the film and the rest of the cast villagers, it feels authentic, as if we are watching reality unfold.
Ultimately, this is a deeply moving portrait of a culture and of the strength of women.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.