As Latin American cinema continues to break new ground all over the globe, filmmakers from the region have found in film a way to honor the indigenous roots that run through the American continent. Roma‘s Yalitza Aparicio, who earned an Oscar nomination for a performance in Spanish and Mixtec, may well signal a broader embrace of indigenous characters and performances, but there are many other examples coming from all over Latin America. There’s the Peruvian film Wiñaypacha, which is all in Aymara; the Guatemalan fest favorite Ixcanul, all in the Kaqchikel language. And adding to this growing canon is Hatuey Viveros’ Café.
This hybrid film mixes fiction and documentary to portray the traditions, values, and customs of a family in the village of San Miguel Tzinacapan, following the death of its patriarch. As the family prepares to honor the deceased member, they have to come to terms with an increasingly hard financial and cultural situation. Illuminating the hardships faced by modern indigenous communities, Viveros’ project was shot almost entirely in Nahuatl. This despite the fact that many of those in front of the camera — including a son who’s about to graduate as a lawyer — are fluent in Spanish.
But Viveros aimed for authenticity. He worked with the local community to get the translation just right. In the film’s trailer, you see Viveros’ sparse visual language take center stage. He allows his subjects to take control, as they reminisce about the good and the not-so-good times they shared with their father. In doing so he allows us to take stock of the modest household we’re invited into, where Catholic iconography lives alongside indigenous customs. Check out the full elegiac trailer below.