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film review

Like its titular Guatemalan volcano, Jayro Bustamante's hypnotic film debut Ixcanul bubbles with the tension of a teenage girl at odds with her family's native customs, before erupting into a frantic and quietly devastating third act. Bustamante, who grew up with the indigenous Kaqchikel people in central Guatemala, probes the outmoded rituals that bind 17-year-old Maria (Maria Mercedes Coroy). Her peasant parents, who work in a coffee plantation on the slopes of an active volcano, arrange a marriage with a city-dwelling foreman, although she pines for a younger village boy (who calls the United States "the other side of the volcano"). Bathed in dusty hues and rain-forest greens, Ixcanul is gorgeously shot and skillfully frames Maria's curbed sexuality (look to a scene where she waits for her younger crush in the evening shadows). After a pregnant Maria and her family are forced to visit a neighbouring city, the film raises a more troubling parable of modernism's perils, in which indigenous culture falls victim to bureaucracy.