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La Llorona

Spectres of the past come back to haunt a retired general with an unsavoury past in Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante’s taut genre-bending thriller.

Dir Jayro Bustamante
Prod Jayro Bustamante, Gustavo Matheu, Georges Renand, Marina Peralta
Scr Jayro Bustamante, Lisandro Sánchez
With María Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz, Margarita Kénefic
Guatemala-France
2019
97min
Sales Film Factory Entertainment
With English subtitles

Elderly general Enrique Monteverde is being tried for a genocide he oversaw three decades earlier. Convinced that a mysterious woman has entered his home, he begins firing his gun out of fear, scaring the servants who have to cope with his violent outbursts. His wife thinks that these acts are rooted in his dementia, but the weeping woman Monteverde hears is La Llorona, the spirit of a woman who has returned to seek justice for the dead. Guatemala’s lengthy Civil War and the mass murder of Mayan civilians provide a powerful historical framework for Bustamante’s third feature (his second, Tremors plays in Dare). There’s more than a passing resemblance between Julio Diaz’s blustering Monteverde and Guatemala’s former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt, who was tried and found guilty of genocide in 2013, only for the conviction to be overturned. But it is in the mapping of a wider culture of complicity that allows a regime of terror to flourish that the film excels. From the glacial responses of Monteverde’s wife to the head housekeeper whose relationship to the general is never entirely clear, this is a film about secrets and lies, rendered through a breathtaking visual language that melds horror, fantasy and courtroom drama to disarming effect.

Maria Delgado

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