Xunan (1983)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Social Issues, Environmental Science  |   Run Time - 107 min.  |   Countries - Switzerland  |  
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When director Margrit Keller started this documentary in 1980, it was about a woman named Gertrude Dueby-Blom from Berne, Switzerland who went to live in the southernmost state of Chiapas in Mexico -- but not exactly in a direct manner. The woman Dueby-Blom, an ardent anti-fascist, first left Switzerland during World War II so she could work with refugees in Mexico. Once in the country, she fell in love with a businessman and part-time archaeologist and the couple moved to Chiapas to work with and study the Lacandona tribe, descendants of the Mayans. The documentary was interrupted for one year and director Keller had to leave the project, making way for Peter von Gunten to continue the film. Von Gunten decided to switch the focus from Dueby-Blom (known as Xunan, "The Lady" in the Lacandona language) to the clear-cutting of the mahogany forest in the region, leaving nothing where 500-year-old trees once stood. Once the destruction of the mahogany forest was complete, the plans were to build a road to the oil fields along the Guatemalan border. One of the Lacandona elders, Chan K'in, reminisces about the long-distant past, before the missionaries or the forest cutters arrived on the scene.