Silvestre Pantaleón is the narrative of an unusual man playing a familiar role in a simple though universal tale of aging. It juxtaposes the possibility of triumph (the household sustained and health recovered) with the certitude of reversal (healing as but an ephemeral hiatus in the inexorable advance of time).
The story begins as a local curandero reads the protagonist’s fortune and diagnoses the costly remedy to his ills: a complex series of offerings to the hearth, the ants, the river, and the deceased. Silvestre Pantaleon then struggles to pull together the money needed to pay for the curing ceremony and provide for his family, dedicating himself to the only remunerative activities he knows: handcrafting rope for religious ceremonies and making seldom-used household objects that he alone still has the skills to produce.
Silvestre Pantaleón—a collaboration between an anthropologist and a filmmaker—unfolds with no interviews or narration. Rather, scenes from daily life are woven together in rich ethnographic detail and lingering imagery that explore a rural community situated in the shadow of a highway bridge to the international resort of Acapulco. Over this bridge pass thousands of tourists, oblivious to the village life just below yet worlds apart.
The movie has won numerous awards, among them the following: Best Feature-length Mexican Documentary (9th Morelia International Film Festival); Gran Prix Tehuikan (best film, all categories; 21st Montreal First Peoples’ Festival); and Premio 360° (Principal prize; DocsDF, VI Festival Internacional de Cine Documental de la Ciudad de México). It will be also played at the UN’s Millenium Documentary Film festival in Brussels.
Jonathan D Amith: Producer, codirector
Jonathan D Amith (Ph.D. Anthropology, Yale University, 2000) is an anthropologist, linguist, ethnobiologist, and historian. He is an ELDP grantee and an ELAR depositor documenting Mixtec, Mexico. In the early 1990s he worked with indigenous artists from central Guerrero on an exhibit of protest art to stop construction of a hydroelectric dam that would have inundated the region. The art formed the basis of two exhibits (Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago, 1995, and Parque La Villette, Paris, 2002) and a catalogue, The Amate Tradition: Innovation and Dissent in Mexican Art (1995) that Amith edited about the exhibit and region.
After receiving his doctorate, published by Stanford University Press (2005) as The Möbius Strip: A Spatial History of Colonial Society in Guerrero, Mexico, Amith has dedicated himself to documenting two Nahuatl and one Mixtecan endangered language with support from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, and the Hans Rausing Endangered Language Project. He has a house in San Agustín Oapan, where Silvestre Pantaleón, his first venture into ethnographic and documentary film, was shot.
Roberto Olivares Ruiz: Director
Roberto Olivares (born Mexico City) is a Mexican filmmaker living in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. After graduating from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Social Communication, specializing in film and television, he has dedicated ten years to television and video production, especially in indigenous communities. To promote alternative media, Olivares collaborated to found Ojo de Agua Comunicación, a collective dedicated to strengthening communication processes in indigenous communities.
He is responsible both for production and, in the “Community Centers of Communication” project, for training indigenous groups in three regions of Mexico. Olivares is also a member of “Mal de Ojo TV,” a non-profit group of independent producers of alternative media about Oaxaca. Olivares recently received Mexico’s prestigious Nacional de Creadores de Arte, three years of support for a trilogy on indigenous communities and their use of agave. The first film in this series, “Silvestre Pantaleón,” was completed in 2010. Olivares’s work has been shown worldwide, receiving 10 national and international awards.
Language Documentation of Jonathan Amith
The event if free of charge. If you would like to attend please register here
Producer, codirector: Jonathan D Amith / Director: Roberto Olivares Ruiz