Synopsis by Nathan Southern
The discovery of Mayan hieroglyphs qualifies as something of a miracle in and of itself,, given the 16th Century Spaniards' systematic destruction of all books, monuments and pottery bearing the written language. History took a turn for the better in the 18th century, however, when archaeologists turned up a series of artifacts inscribed with these glyphs - artifacts buried in the Central American jungles for hundreds of years. As adapted from Michael Coe's bestselling book of the same name and helmed by David Lebrun, this film relays the tale of the 200-year quest by linguists to translate the said language. The journey carries the audience to locales as diverse and extreme as the icy Russian tundras, the Guatemalan jungles and the antiquated libraries of Madrid, Spain; in those and other milieux, a motley group of theoreticians from diverse fields, including a California-based journalist, a Tennessee art teacher and a British photographer, begin to gradually put the pieces together. What ultimately emerges from this collective work is a portrait of a society fractured into conflicting factions, guided by a bizarre cosmology (almost byzantine in its complexity) and strange, almost otherworldly ritual - a social picture that connects contemporary Mayans to their long-severed-off past.
archaeology, hieroglyphics, linguistics, Maya, Mayan, theorist, translator