First-time director Sergio Ramirez blends subtle moods and textured imagery in his 2010 film, Distancia, one of the most powerful and understated productions to emerge from Central America in recent years. It tells the story of an elderly man, Tomás Choc, who travels across the highlands of Guatemala to reunite with his long-lost daughter, Lucía, kidnapped as a young child during the civil war twenty years earlier. His journey to the town of Nebaj leads him through serene mountain landscapes and into revealing encounters with other travellers. Along the way, he browses his old hand-written journals, drawing the audience to reflect on Guatemala’s 36-year conflict, which claimed 200,000 lives and displaced more than a million indigenous Mayans. Few words are spoken, but few need to be. One of the film’s most moving moments is when Choc is finally reunited with his daughter, only to discover that she does not speak Spanish, but the Q’eqchi Mayan language of her adoptive parents, which he does not understand. Distancia is a powerful and beautiful story of alienation and loss, and ultimately, healing. It was shot on a shoe-string budget and recently won best picture at the Havana film festival in New York.
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