Ixcanul Volcano: NZFF Review
Small scale stories on the international stage is what the New Zealand International Film Festival is all about.
And this latest from Guatemala certainly offers an insight into a world most of us are unlikely to ever see into.
It's the tale of 17-year-old Maria, who works on her family's coffee plantation and who is facing an arranged marriage that would guarantee her family's fate and secure their life. But Maria has other plans in this variant of Romeo and Juliet thanks to the secret love she harbours for plantation worker Pepe.
Ixcanul Volcano is one of those films where by virtue of the story, very little happens but each dramatic moment is a seismic one. It may be sombre and low key but it's quite affecting in places thanks to Maria Mercedes Conroy's performance which just pitches it perfectly.
There are a few dramatic shocks throughout as well and some of the story's elements aren't quite as conclusive as perhaps you'd expect, but that's probably a good thing - the social commentary on life in Guatemala and for those in small villages is an eye-opener, a reminder that life isn't always neatly resolved and that the human condition is still prone to suffering and pain while paying the piper.
Slow and a film to lose yourself in, Ixcanul Volcano has haunting imagery, a volcano in the background and in some scenes, an urgency that's hard to deny; dramatically, it's a slow burner but the journey is worth taking.