La Llorona (2019)


Introduction

La Llorona is a 2019 Guatemalan horror film directed by Jayro Bustamante.

An ageing paranoid war criminal, protected by his faithful wife, faces death while being haunted by the ghosts of his past.

Also known as The Weeping Woman (world-wide English title).

Outline

Former Guatemalan dictator Enrique Monteverde (based on Efraín Ríos Montt) is being tried for orchestrating the brutal genocide of native Mayans in 1982-1983. Now elderly, he lives with his wife, Carmen; daughter, Natalia; granddaughter, Sara and their security guard, Letona. During the trial, Natalia is troubled by the indigenous women who describe being brutalised by Monteverde’s army, while Carmen dismisses them as liars. He is convicted but the verdict is overturned by the high court, which ruled that his guilt could not be conclusively proven. The decision is met with disgust and unrest by the public, who hold nonstop protests outside Monteverde’s home.

Monteverde’s sleep is interrupted by the sound of a woman weeping and he narrowly misses shooting his wife in the kitchen. This leads to most of his household staff – who are ethnic Kaqchikel people – quitting. His devoted housekeeper, Valeriana, brings in a young woman named Alma from her village to work as a maid. Supernatural activity involving water, including faucets spontaneously turning on, ensues. One night Monteverde sees Alma wading through the pool into the house; his family discovers him, sexually aroused, watching Alma wash her dress. His disgusted wife tells Natalia that he was always attracted to native women and reveals her suspicions that Valeriana, who arrived at their household as a child, may be his daughter. However, Natalia learns from Sara that even though she is very young, Alma already had a son and daughter who died. Alma teaches Sara to hold her breath under water.

The protests continue around the clock, leaving the family essentially trapped in the house. Carmen wets the bed during recurring nightmares where she pictures herself as a Kaqchikel woman being chased and abducted with two Kaqchikel children by the military. The house is blanketed with flyers of the disappeared from decades earlier; Sara and Alma notice one of the Kaqchikel men on the flyers is among the crowd of protesters. Suspicion grows within Valeriana when she reveals to Alma that nobody in her village appears to know her.

Valeriana suspects dark magic is at work and attempts to cleanse Monteverde of the evil spirit. Later that night, Sara uses her grandfather’s oxygen cylinder to hold her breath longer under the pool. Terrified, Monteverde starts shooting Alma while accidentally shooting Sara in the arm. The house is surrounded by the spirits of the disappeared. As he searches around the house, Letona encounters the spirits of two Kaqchikel children who calmly take him away and is not seen again. Valeriana performs a Mayan ceremony while a woman’s wailing can be heard. Carmen goes into a trance as she is transported back to the nightmare, which are revealed to be Alma’s last moments, watching her children drowned by soldiers before being executed herself by Monteverde. A distraught Carmen strangles Monteverde in the trance and in reality.

At Monteverde’s funeral, another old general excuses to the bathroom where he hears a woman wailing as the room begins to flood.

Cast

  • María Mercedes Coroy as Alma.
  • Margarita Kenéfic as Carmen.
  • Sabrina De La Hoz as Natalia.
  • Julio Díaz as Enrique Monteverde.
  • María Telón as Valeriana.
  • Ayla-Elea Hurtado as Sara.
  • Juan Pablo Olyslager as Letona.

Release

La Llorona had its world premiere on 30 August 2019 at the Venice Film Festival (Giornate degli Autori) and later screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. It was selected as the Guatemalan entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards, making the shortlist of 15 films. On 06 August 2020, the film premiered on the horror streaming service Shudder. On 18 October 2022, the film was released by the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD.

Critical reception for La Llorona has been positive.

Trivia

  • First Guatemalan film to ever be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
  • La Llorona de los Cafetales, a seven and a half minutes-long video by Jayro Bustamante, starring María Mercedes Coroy and featuring Gaby Moreno’s version of the traditional song La Llorona, was released in February 2020 as the film’s official trailer.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Jayro Bustamante.
  • Producer(s):
    • Jayro Bustamante … producer.
    • Mauricio Escobar … line producer.
    • Herminio Gutiérrez … associate producer.
    • Gustavo Matheu … producer.
    • Marina Peralta … co-producer.
    • Georges Renand … co-producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Jayro Bustamante.
    • Lisandro Sanchez … (co writer).
  • Music:
    • Pascual Reyes.
  • Cinematography:
    • Nicolás Wong.
  • Editor(s):
    • Jayro Bustamante.
    • Gustavo Matheu.
  • Production:
    • El Ministerio de Cultura Y Deportes de Guatamala.
    • La Casa de Production.
    • Les Films du Volcan.
  • Distributor(s):
    • ARP Sélection (2020) (France) (theatrical).
    • Atera Films (2020) (Spain) (theatrical).
    • Elite Filmes (2021) (Brazil) (theatrical).
    • Gaga (2020) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Seven Films (2020) (Greece) (theatrical).
    • Cine Canibal (2021) (Mexico) (all media).
    • Cinéart (2020) (Netherlands) (video) (VOD).
    • Movies Inspired (2021) (Italy) (all media).
    • Shudder (2020) (USA) (all media).
  • Release Date: 18 April 2019 (Indonesia).
  • Running Time: 107 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: Guatemala.
  • Language: Spanish.

Video Link(s)

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