A gentle voice surveying the vast golden skies and the blue seas opens the film Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, a documentary on the Mayan resistance in Mexico and Guatemala against the destruction of their ancient homes, cultures, and traditions.
The Mayan calendar once foretold that the end would bring about a natural change in colour, that the Gods would destroy the people, and the world would begin anew. Yet, this change of colour can already be found in Guatemala, in the form of luscious green rainforests cut down to make room for dull gray gold mines, thanks to the vengeful multinational corporate “gods.” In addition, the suffering masses are the indigenous Maya who reside in Mexico and Guatemala fighting a losing battle against these industries.
Written and directed by Frauke Sandig and Eric Black, this award-winning documentary follows six individuals who all come from different walks of life yet inevitably share the same cultural identity.
It is a culture which embodies the harmonization between man and his natural surroundings, emphasizing the duties towards protecting his environment, the vast forests, and the various animals which reside within it. The preservation of culture is the preservation of one’s way of life. But the preservation of the Mayan way of life in Chiapas, Mexico and in Guatemala, is determined by the preservation of nature.
Unfortunately, more than two-thirds of the Lacandon rainforests have been destroyed in the past 30 years. In Guatemala, trees have been cut down, wells have dried up, houses have been brought down, and people have been severely affected by the chemical use of cyanide all in the name of gold (some by Canadian industries no less). Chiapas, which once held a diverse ecosystem, has now been left as a wasteland. Furthermore in Mexico, indigenous people who rely heavily on cornfields have been struggling against mega-corporations such as Monsanto, who produce cheaper genetically modified corn.
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth can at times seem like a slow-paced film, especially when it showcases the many complex rituals of the Mayan people. Nonetheless, the filmmakers manage to create a documentary that is both vivid and beautiful, with an expertly-detailed focus on natural landscapes and exotic creatures.
The film also deals with the identity crisis faced by many Maya in Guatemala and Mexico, a struggle between what it means to be Latino as opposed to indigenous; it is a literal, and often dangerous, clash of cultures. It is a struggle based upon the old ways versus the new, what culture once was, and what has become of it today in a modernized world that values profit over preservation. According to Mayan beliefs, everything living that exists on earth must be taken into account along with mankind; humans make only one part of the entire structure. After all, if everything under the sky truly is connected, then nothing should be excluded, forgotten, or destroyed without grave consequences.
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth screens Monday Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. in Room H-110, 1455 de Maisonneuve West. The event is part of Divine Interventions: Documentary, Spirituality, and Social Justice. Directors Frauke Sandig and Eric Black, and special guests speakers will be in attendance. For more information, visit www.cinemapolitica.org/concordia