This Ecuadorian Director Hopes His Film Will Help Break the Silence Around Sexual Abuse

Lead Photo: 'Cenizas' still courtesy of Miami Film Festival
'Cenizas' still courtesy of Miami Film Festival
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Director Juan Sebastian Jacome could never have anticipated how timely his second feature film, Cenizas, would be. By the time of its premiere at the Miami Film Festival, this Ecuadorian-set story about a daughter and a father reconnecting as the Cotopaxi volcano spews ash and threatens to erupt, seems tailor-made for the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Estranged from him for years, Caridad (Samanta Caicedo) reaches out to her father (Diego Naranjo) when the forecast makes it look like her house will be in the volcano’s path. But their reunion will not be a happy one. Surrounded by ash, their tense meeting merely drudges up old family secrets that both have tried to steer clear for more than a decade.

We won’t spoil the revelations that color the interactions between the angry young woman and her dad. But we’ll say this: in between the gorgeous shots of Cotopaxi and more claustrophobic interior scenes, the explosive fights that are filmed in near-uncomfortable cinema verité style are sure to resonate in a world rocked by what happens when women speak up and refuse to stay silent. As Jacome told Remezcla, he wanted to tackle (however indirectly) the issue of sexual assault because, in Ecuador especially, it remains cloaked in secrecy and silence. “It’s always blown my mind how that happens. How people think that if you only separate the abuser from the abused, time will take care of everything, without talking or addressing the issue itself.”

When asked how he feels about Cenizas arriving in the middle of these broader calls of #TimesUp and #NeverAgain, the Ecuadorian director was soberly excited about adding to that conversation, hoping it can help break the silence that has long lorded over these issues. But also, it opened his eyes to what’s at stake. “It’s made me realize how worldwide of a problem this is. I always thought about this problem as something from my hometown, in some way. I didn’t know how common this was everywhere else until everyone started talking about it. It made me feel like this is much more of a universal story than even I thought it was.”

Cenizas premiered at the Miami Film Festival.