Guatemala: On the Edge of Discovery is a thoroughly researched, beautifully filmed and artfully crafted journey into the beating heart of the Land of the Maya.
This smart, ambitious work begins by building a foundation, revealing the diversity of a dramatic landscape that is lifted by shifting tectonic plates, shaped by violent volcanic eruptions and etched by the power of falling water.
After firmly establishing a sense of place, the film pivots to tackle the historic and cultural themes that define the country and her people.
The Ancient Maya
Noted archaeologists and field researchers Dr. Richard Hansen, David Sadet and Livy Grazioso, help reveal the mysteries of Maya civilization. They describe the forces behind the sudden collapse of the Maya kings and their powerful cities, proposing theories that have implications today.
Cracking the Maya Code
The intellectual journey required to decipher the ancient Maya hieroglyphs is an incredible quest. The effort spanned centuries, crossed oceans, fueled Cold War propaganda battles and launched bitter academic rivalries.
Now, thanks to the determined efforts of amateur sleuths and determined scholars, we can read much of what the ancients said about themselves.
Catholicism and Religious Syncretism
The film illustrates the influence of Spanish colonialism, beginning with the Holy Week celebration in Antigua, the most cinematic Catholic pageant in the New World.
Then, on the heels of the crucifixion of Christ, the film plunges into the confounding world of religious syncretism. The fusion of the pre-Columbian spirituality of the Maya with the Catholicism of the Conquistadors creates one of the most baffling cultural phenomena in Guatemala.
The Maya Weavers
Guatemala: On the Edge of Discovery tells the story of the weavers and their sweet traditions, some of them dating to the invention of the back strap loom in pre-Columbian times.
Olga Reiche, a noted textile authority, reveals how the massive earthquake in 1976 disrupted the tradition. Then, the weavers were plunged into an even deeper darkness when Guatemala’s long and violent civil war exploded in 1978. Decades later, these resilient women are back, rebuilding their lives and selling their work to buyers around the world.
Arturo Monroy and Irene Carlos, two very talented and thoughtful contemporary artists, show their work and provide their insights in to their country’s past and present.
After all, it is the job of the artist to stir the pot, to challenge the status quo, to help inform the present in the light of the past.
The film wraps with the story of Gustavo and his wife, two of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet. His simple acts of kindness offer a sober, yet heartwarming insight into a land that truly is poised on the edge of discovery.