Price: $310.00

    Code: 2424

    Directed by Jose Álvarez
    2012, 65 min
    Purchase: $310 | Classroom rental: $125

    An engrossing ethnographic work, Canícula is a study of the rich cultural heritage and traditions of the Totonac people of Veracruz, Mexico, who have resided in this region for thousands of years. Beautifully photographed, this documentary features rare footage of the Totonac's "voladores" ritual ("the flying dance"), named an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

    In Spanish, the term 'canícula' refers to the forty most torrid days of the year. For the Totonac people, this period, known as the ‘days of the bleeding sun,' is marked with important rites and ceremonies.

    Employing an intimate, patient approach, director Jose Álvarez transports us to a small village in Zapotal, Santa Cruz, as preparations are underway for the annual rituals. We see young children learning a traditional dance; women kneading, molding and sculpting clay to produce the Totonac's gorgeous, signature pottery; and we observe young boys and men practicing the Voladores on the ground.

    When the time comes, four boys and one elder will climb to the top of a pole that rises above the forest. The eldest will take his place at the very top, where he will perform a traditional song and dance. Then the four boys will cast themselves backwards, letting themselves fall , heads to the ground, only their feet tied by a rope, as they spin around the pole making their descent. It is a breathtaking sight, a ceremony of symbolic sacrifice and rebirth that dates back 500 years when it was first performed to appease the gods and end a devastating drought.

    A striking anthropological documentary, Canícula emphasizes the importance of tradition in the preservation of culture and identity.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    * Official Selection, MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight
    * Official Selection, True/False Film Festival
    * Official Selection, Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, FIPRESCI Award Winner
    * International Showcase, Los Angeles Film Festival
    * Official Selection, Native American Film Festival, Verde Valley Archeology Center.
    * Winner, Best Documentary Director, Cinema Tropical Awards


    "A gorgeous and captivating overview of the crafts and rituals of the Totonac people in Veracruz's Zapotal Santa Cruz community. Among the year's loveliest nonfiction entries… This tapestry of sights and sounds allows audiences to take notice of a proud, long-ignored tribal group whose cultural roots remain firmly intact." – Variety

    “By illuminating the way in which humble materials can be elevated to mystic stature, Canícula becomes a hushed and beautiful contemplation of timelessness and transformation." - LA Times

    "Its beauty moved me deeply. It's exciting because it is true, beautiful and poetic.” - Alejando González Iñarritu, director of Babel, 21 Grams and Amores Perros

    "Through the use of stunning visuals and music straight from Zapotal, Álvarez entices the audience into a traditional vision of Mexico... Does an excellent job of using imagery to take the audience beyond the conflicted image of Mexico and into a small village intent on preserving its culture.” – Vox Magazine

    " [An] exquisitely filmed documentary... Those fascinated by indigenous cultures will probably enjoy Canícula immensely. " - Library Journal

    "Suitable for college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of religion/ritual, anthropological film, and Latin American studies, as well as general audiences." - Anthropology Review Database