TRAILER: This Doc Captures a Peyote Ceremony Where the Cora Community Confronts Its Demons

For a filmmaker, inspiration can come in many different forms. In the case of Mexican director Emilio Téllez, it came in the form of a book cover and a peyote trip. The book cover was for a five-volume 1968 ethnographic encyclopedia by Fernando Benítez entitled Los indios de México, and the peyote trip took place over a long day during Holy Week with the indigenous Cora community of the sierra of Nayarit.

Now if you take a gander at Google image search, you can probably figure out why the book cover caught Téllez’s attention: a group of men glance momentarily at the camera, their bodies painted meticulously in black and white stripes, their faces covered by unsettling diabolical masks. After a little research, Téllez learned that these men were Cora and the occasion for their slightly terrifying appearance was a Holy Week ceremony called Tiyar’us, in which the devil is believed to manifest himself on earth.

Understandably, Téllez picked up a camera and headed to the small Pacific state of Nayarit, where work on his documentary Tiyarus (literally translated as Devils) appropriately began with him participating in the ceremony himself. On a hot March afternoon, after nearly an entire day running under the burning desert sun with no food or water, Téllez was invited to ingest peyote and — according to the Cora belief system — quite literally confront his demons.

The documentary that resulted from this encounter is a highly personal and, well, trippy take on the Tiyarus ceremony that revels in the sensory experience of chirping wood flutes, pattering drums, and vividly detailed masks representing the demon himself. Tiyarus premiered at the 2015 Morelia Film Festival.