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VENICE 2019 Giornate degli Autori

Review: The Weeping Woman

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- VENICE 2019: In his third feature, presented in Giornate degli Autori, Jayro Bustamante tells the story of the Guatemalan genocide using the codes of the ghost movie

Review: The Weeping Woman
María Mercedes Coroy in The Weeping Woman

Justice comes from another world in Jayro Bustamante’s new film, The Weeping Woman [+see also:
trailer
interview: Jayro Bustamante
film profile
]
, presented in competition at the 16th Giornate degli Autori at the 76th Venice International Film Festival.The Guatemalan director, who studied in Paris and Rome, completes with this third feature his trilogy about the terms which, in Guatemala, are considered to be the worst insults that can be addressed to a person : “indio” (though they represent 70% of the population), a theme explored in Ixcanul [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jayro Bustamante
film profile
]
, which premiered in Berlin; “gay”, around which Tremors [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jayro Bustamante
film profile
]
revolves; and “communist”, from which this latest film takes its inspiration. The film tells the story of the genocide of the early 1980s during the civil war in Guatemala — which led to the massacre of the Maya-Ixiles population, among them thousands of children — using the codes of the ghost movie.

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In 2013, general and former president Efraín Ríos Montt was condemned of genocide and crime against humanity, but after just about two weeks, the sentence was overturned on the grounds of a procedure breach, provoking anger and dismay in the Guatemalan people. This man is the inspiration for the character of Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz), retired army general who, together with his wife Carmen (Margarita Kénefic) and his daughter Natalia (Sabrina De La Hoz), we witness listening — brazen and self-assured — to the harrowing testimonies of the women who suffered the violence of the soldiers under his command. Monteverde is convicted of genocide, but he is acquitted soon after thanks to the cancellation of the trial. This total and outrageous impunity leads the people to protest, and the Monteverde family (which also includes the young Sara – Ayla-Elea Hurtado – daughter of Natalia whose father has disappeared under mysterious circumstances) will be forced to barricade themselves in their house, dodging the stones thrown at their windows by the angry indigenous population.

Most of the film takes place in the general’s luxury poolside villa. The characters are practically trapped, and the circle around them tightens more and more. During the day, the protest chants coming from the street resound incessantly; at night, the cries of a woman torment Enrique, while his wife Carmen, who has always defended him, begins to have awful and revelatory nightmares, and his daughter Natalia asks herself more and more questions. The spirit of La Llorona, the weeping woman of the traditional Latinoamerican legend, floats around the house looking for justice, while the arrival of a new housemaid with long black hair, Alma (María Mercedes Coroy), who came to help the longtime housekeeper Valeriana (María Telón) — they are both indigenous — leads to a series of unexplained events.

In an increasingly supernatural escalation of events, even the faces of the protesters begin to change, the cries get louder until everything returns to its rightful place. The work on sound is extraordinary, the screams hitting the viewer straight in the belly. As the emotional temperature rises, the apparent impassivity of the characters at the beginning of the film vanishes. Bustamante chooses to address this atrocious episode from Guatemalan history via genre, with a film that touches on horror, because in the end, horror is what this is all about. He however imagines a different ending to the story.

The Weeping Woman is produced by La Casa de Producción with French company Les Films du Volcan. International sales are handled by Film Factory Entertainment.

(Translated from Italian)

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