Short Film: Joy Joy Nails

The scene opens with a couple of girls smoking and gossiping, as they wait for a car to pick them up. One of them mentions that Sarah has moved up to be the front girl, since the previous girl was fired. Sarah says she deserves it, since she has been working there for a long time. Sarah stands on the corner smoking with her makeup all done up and dressed to fit the part of the boss, unlike the other girls who are a little more casual, but still rocking bright red lipstick. They won’t miss the ex front desk girl, since she treated them unfairly. With those first lines of dialogue, it’s implied that the rest of the girls have inferior parts to play in the nail salon. They also talk about a handsome guy who works there, the son of the nail salon owner. Sarah jokes that he likes her face. Behind them, the sullen expression of a tall girl appears wearing drab colors. “It’s fresh off the boat,” says Sarah, laughing. She talks about the new trainee in Korean, saying “she probably still gets her clothes from China.” They all ride out in a white van to the nail salon. It appears they’re heading to New Jersey, as the car passes suburban homes and mansions. The girls spend the rest of their afternoon in the salon.

In Joy Joy Nails there’s a flow of scenes depicting traffic, people walking, stores with Chinese symbols and juxtapositions familiar to Flushing, New York. The salon has a hue of pinks that overwhelms the screen. The shelves are filled with an array of nail polish colors like a field of flowers. Sarah’s pink lipstick radiates as she walks around smiling, observing the other girl, saying hello to customers, and keeping things organized and clean. Though Sarah has a cheerful personality, but she’s also childish and vindictive. The salon has a feeling of girlishness, but also an insincere, sugary and sterile environment.

Short film have always been intriguing to me, since they capture so much in a short span of time. Keeping things short and tidy, make Joy Joy Nails, which is under 20 minutes poignant and heartfelt. It also touched on important subjects: female relationships, female/male power dynamics, gender roles, new immigrants vs. older one.

The guy who the girls were swooning over in the beginning turns out to be an asshole. Though the Sarah has her eyes set on him, he starts checking out the new girl, who works in the back. Sarah notices, but doesn’t think anything of it, until she sees them going to the massage room together. The guy tells her, he is going to look for an earing a customer lost, and take Mia with him. Sarah spies on them through the security camera in the front. Sarah sees that both of them come out a while later. She automatically assumes Mia has an interest in the guy. Sarah confronts Mia later in the day after finding the earring herself in the massage room. Mia breaks out in tears and Sarah realizes that something worse has occurred to her. Of course she never really says it, but by her gestures we can tell something awful happen to Mia in the massage room. Later that night, Sarah buys Plan B, and then gives it to Mia the next day. She also gives her a deposit and a new job address some place else. Back at the nail salon, she tells the creepy guy that she fired Mia, but doesn’t fully explain why, but hints at the fact that she knows what happen, and asks him to pay for some extra materials out of his own pocket. She also plans to take the day off. He begrudgingly accepts the arrangement, but acknowledges that he has no choice, otherwise Sarah will go to his parents, and tell them what he did. The film leaves off with Sarah giving a side smile.

It was especially juvenile for Sarah to make a big deal about the guy in the first place and scream at Mia. After knowing the truth, it was clear Sarah felt shitty, so she helped Mia and gave her info for a new job, but the perpetrator was simply given a hand slap. Sarah also could not risk losing her job, by making a bigger deal out of this incident, so she decides on a convenient solution for her and the new girl. At least Mia will no longer be forced to go to work with this sick guy around. Sarah is no longer as naïve as she was before, now knowing the asshole she’s working with.

The director was able to create scenes with tension and drama. Even though some scenes are in another language, I was able to connect with them, and they weren’t overly long, so as not to bore the audience since sometime there were no subtitles. My favorite scene is still the one with all the girls waiting for the van as they are gossiping. In the next we see the main girl take on her role as the boss, by telling one of the girls not to wear her necklace. There’s also a scene where she’s intently looking at herself at a bathroom mirror, brushing her hair and getting ready for the day, as someone knocks. It cuts to the next morning, when the sun is not fully out yet, and Sarah walks to meet Sarah behind a store, so as no one will hear their conversation.

It’s infuriating how much these two women have to cover for this careless, half-brained guy. It’s clear how much power he holds as the son of the nail salon owner. He was able to prey on a vulnerable person, who’s new to the country and speaks little English. Sarah realizes her own power, even if small, she can wield some of it, after knowing this secret. But, she cannot go as far as firing him.

You can watch the film through the New Yorker channel, below:

Chico and Rita

The film opens with Chico staring out of the window to view, the old streets of La Havana. Just as the city itself has deteriorated over time, so has Chico’s motivation for life. He changes the radio station only to find that most of them are broadcasting Fidel Castro’s speeches, but then he finally finds one, playing music. It’s the Melodies of Yesterday playing on the radio. The song takes him back to the Havana of his youth where he met Rita.

Chico and Rita met in 1948 before the revolution when Havana was a bustling city with colorful streets, historical buildings, large casinos, fancy hotels and bars. Back then, musicians gathered freely to play and sing without fear that the government would shut them down. From the moment Chico met Rita, they were drawn to each other, but neither wanted to show it, so they played hard to get until Rita decides to join his group of friends. Later, in the middle of the night, when everyone goes home, Chico plays the piano as she sings to the melody in a shoddy bar. On the screen, Rita’s voice moves along with her curves underneath a yellow dress, twirling about and giving sensual glances and smiles at Chico.

Just as their romance quickly begins, it erupts into anger when Rita discovers that Chico has a woman on the side; though he doesn’t actually care for her. Chico continues to chase Rita until she agrees to sing with him in a competition. They win and eventually get offered an ongoing singing gig at a famous hotel. Through one misunderstanding or another, they are once again embroiled in an inconsolable argument, and Rita abandons Cuba for New York City, thinking Chico betrayed her.

The paring of the animation and music creates a sultry world where characters seem to naturally fall in love. La Havana has a magical quality with illustrious architecture. The detailed chromatic animation, done by artist Javier Mariscal, captures the tone and mood of Cuba and New York City in the late 1940s and 1950s. The directors (Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando) were actually able to replicate many of the streets from photo archives the Havana city government had kept since 1949. We also get views of the urban, sometimes snowy landscape of NYC. When Chico and his friends arrive to New York City, they witness their first blanket of snow. They also visit Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and famous hotels and music venues like the Village Vanguard where many Jazz legends played. Much of the soundtrack includes original Jazz and Bolero standards by Cuban Jazz legend Bebo Valdes Valdés.

The music and drawings are favored over longer dialogue and character development, to the point of leaving many things to assumption. Some characters appear one-sided, and without giving much time to reflecting on their actions. There are some missing scenes that could have been used to broaden out the story.

The film has a quick pace as we are taken from Cuba to New York to Paris to Las Vegas, as Chico follow’s Rita’s path. Between these moments the two try to stay together only to distance themselves once more because of their fiery tempers. When Chico returns to Cuba, he finds La Havana without music or life, now that his girl is gone.He sees the political situation worsening, with the onset of the revolution and Fidel’s communist government. Only the complaints of neighbors about the power outages can be heard. Rita was his heart and soul, which he expressed through piano melodies.

It almost seems unfair how destiny keeps playing with them, but it also seems silly how moments arise, which could have easily been solved, but yet, they give in to an absolute fate. “Why does it always have to be so dramatic?” should be a common thought, but maybe love and suffering go hand in hand for these two.

A reading of The Handmaid’s Tale


The show has a way of absorbing you with its bareness and minimalism, becoming almost too austere and icy.

This show couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate time, seeing as how women have much to lose from the extreme, right-wing policies of the current republicans in control of the senate, house and the fake white house. The patriarchy wants to reverse the progress on women’s health care and family planning. Not a single women was part of the republican senate group meant to write the new health care bill. Once it was out in the open, we saw why they kept it hidden for so long. There were severe cuts to programs vital to women and families, for example Medicaid and planned parenthood. I guess conservatives are pro-life, but not when its comes to women and their children.

People want to lie to themselves, and say “that couldn’t happen to us.” Often we dismiss older societies as being naive. We saw this at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale (book) when the historian discussed the tape recordings, which revealed June’s story. He laughed it off, saying Gilead was antiquated and their ideas were primitive and impossible now. That is until someone asked, “What sort political climate do you think could potentially break apart our current status and take us back in time?” The past repeats itself only with minor differences, so it’s safe to say, we should not make light of our current political state. The historian in The handmaid’s Tale goes on to respond:

In times of peace and plenty it is hard to remember the conditions that have led to authoritative regime changes in the past, and it is even harder to suppose that we ourselves would ever make such choices or allow them to be made, but when there’s a perfect storm and collapse of the established order is in the works, precipitated by environmental stresses that lead to food shortage, economic factors, such as unrest due to unemployment, a social structure that is, top-heavy with too much wealth being concentrated among too few, then scapegoats are sought and blamed, fear is rampant, and there is pressure to trade what we think of liberty, for what we think of as safety.



I’m a little mad that no one told me about this book growing up, nor was it a required reading in high school or junior high. I wonder how I would have perceived the harsh dystopian setting, the stony characters and the cruelness of how women were treated. It may have been the case that my teachers were either offended by the nature of the book, or were not allowed to teach it since the faculty might have deemed it inappropriate for teenage girls. It would have no doubt made me hate men, at least initially. There are some redemptive male characters who are not as deplorable as the males figures in power.

I began watching The Handmaid’s Tale series, blindly without having any background on the story. This caused a shock in so much as I did not want to watch another episode, even with another human present. I could only stomach one episode at a time, because by the end of episode I had shrunk and felt depressed. This was not a lighthearted show you binge watch for 3 or 4 episodes that include moments of comic relief of the likeness of OITNB.

The scenes in the show have a way of absorbing you with its bare and minimal quality. It takes place in Cambridge, Massachusetts (though it was actually filmed in Canada) where a new society called Gilead has overthrown the U.S. democratic government of the modern era and instituted a version of Christian fundamentalism or a theocracy. This could have taken place in our decade, but it’s meant to resemble 2005—a not so distant past.

Fall in New York.

“They have instituted a caste system paired with a rigid wardrobe meant to subjugate women.”

The Gilead society is structured in such a way where everyone has a designated function, which determines their social ranking, and what they wear. They have instituted a caste system paired with a rigid wardrobe meant to subjugate women. In every town a group of handmaids are in charge of breeding children that will be raised by the wives and fathered by the commander within the assigned household. The names they once had have been discarded and in its place are the chosen family names, so they are Offred or Ofwarren. In this society love doesn’t exist, so no one dates or marries a person of their choice. Most of the men have been turned into guards or angels, meant to protect the women, but in reality they are there to make sure they don’t escape.

There is no a sight of imperfection with the neighborhood’s pristine streets, homes and gardens. Everything is meant to appear clean and pure including the women. The only colors that resonate are the handmaid’s crimson dresses and cloaks, their white hats and the wives’ blue dresses, which symbolize purity. The Marthas are the cooks and they wear drab gray uniforms; they mostly keep to themselves, since they are hidden away like discarded towels in the kitchen. The men mostly wear black and the nuns wear dark green outfits, which appear heavy.

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Three dolls found in a nyc thrift store.

The handmaids cannot wear makeup. Their faces hide underneath the white hat that doesn’t let them see on the sides or above, only straight as if they were in a tunnel. The handmaids walk in pairs at the same rhythm. “She is my spy and I am her spy,” Offred (June) thinks  while walking with Ofglen.

Every word is carefully studied, as is every gesture, since the characters must be careful not to let their true feelings come out. An illegal action can mean punishment, or worse the women could be sent to the colonies where people go to die. It’s pertinent to know everyone’s motive, and to make sure they will not tell on you if you dissent.

“The series is an alternative reading of the book and works as a complement or another  layer.”

We often find closeup shots of June’s face as we hear her interior monologue. There’s a natural quality to the way the show was filmed, especially when June or other handmaids are in the shot, which is not to be compared with the harshness of the wives or nuns.

Let us be who we want to be and wear what we want.

The show is a version, adapted from Margaret Atwood’s book by the same name. As is the case when books are turned into shows or movies, many scenes are left out, dialogues or the similitude of relationships. The series is an alternative reading of the book and works as a complement or another layer.

The interior monologue of June is much more fluid and spontaneous in the book, where she takes certain freedoms  describing scenes and giving us suggestive anecdotes, often tricking into believing that she is still in her old life. There are poignant moments of irony and sarcasm that are not strongly felt in the show.

The book version also has a longer scene between Moira and June when they meet again after the red center days. Nick and June’s relationship is lackluster in the book and I’m glad I had the show’s version to illustrate their affection, since in the book it seems oddly cold. The wife also does not represent much of threat in the book version, but in the series she is much younger and has an alarmingly sadistic quality.

From the book, I remember Margaret Antwood’s words on how cool the scrabble pieces felt in June’s hand as she paired the letters. From the show, I remember, “They didn’t get everything, there was something left in her. She looked invincible,” June said after seeing another handmaid commit an act of bravery.

Blurry memory.


Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run: I wish I was a hunter

At the end of our exploring we shall not cease from exploration . . . and the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started. . . and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot

Run Lola Run GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

A critical moment is a result of intricate parts working together to create that single moment in time. If you alter one aspect the results may vary. How you arrive at the present has much to do with the past. Run Lola Run, a film by Tom Tykwer explores the way we control free will, but also how we are bound by causality. It begins with a phone call and some bad news that sends Lola running to her imminent future. The task is to get $100,000 in 20 minutes so she can save her boyfriend Mani. Can she do it?

The pacing of the film harkens back to the 1990s with its minimal approach, bare camera angles and fast images in anticipation of the future. The film is set in Berlin, Germany, which lends itself to a functional modernity. Lola represents chaos within the world of order and rules. Immediately from the onset of the film, we are thrown into action as the main character is given a critical choice. Lola runs out of her house in a maddening pace not caring, who she might push over on the sidewalk with the song “I wish” carrying her along.

I wish I was a hunter

In search of different food

I wish I was the animal

Which fits into that mood

I wish I was a person

With unlimited breath

I wish I was a heartbeat

That never comes to rest

Mani is in trouble as a result of her not being able to pick him up a precise location, but also due to his own mental weakness. It comes down to Lola to save him under 20 minutes. While she’s running you can’t help but question if Mani is actually deserving of her sacrifice despite her small culpability. There was something empowering about watching Lola rush to her destiny and be the spark that could save her boyfriend’s life. She has the ability to change the outcome prior to the clock striking. Is she racing against the clock or the moments along the way that might stop her?

The film brings into questions, the whole notion of free will, and if we are truly independent to make our own choices. There is a push and pull of free will and determinism running through the film. It’s possible that some of our choices are bound by patterns of cause and effect, and by nature and nurture, so our free will is actually limited.

The premise of Lola’s dilemma is simple and bound by a set of rules, but what happens between the beginning and the end is still theory. There are several versions of the initial storyline. With every version Lola is more present and in tune with the moment. Each alternate version plays like a loop in a video game in which the character is given other try to find a more advantageous outcome then the last.

“The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes—everything else is pure theory. Off we go!” – Herr Schuster

When she bumps into bystanders, we see a flash-forward of their lives. A seemingly inconsequential meeting has ramifications. It’s also possible that this chance encounter didn’t actually cause anything, but in the newer version there are alternate possibilities for all the characters.

Moonlight: The sea unravels

Image: Cynthia Via

When I first saw the trailer for Moonlight it caught me off guard. I immediately felt intrigued by the quiet scenes, the slowness of the dialogue clouded  in dark blue and green hues. Most of the characters on screen were male, but it always went back to a young black boy and Mahershala Ali, who played Juan, and seemed to be the wise friend.

Moonlight, directed by Jenkins, chronicles Chiron’s childhood, through adolescence and adulthood. The character is played by three actors (Jaden Piner, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes). We don’t get every detail of Chiron’s life, but only the major turn of events. Every scene is part of a chapter or a change, and the gaps are left for us to imagine an unraveling that leads to the next chapter. The empty spaces in between each new chapter carry on the emotions to the next event. The film is about discovering your place in the world, who you are, and while for others it may come easily, the search for Chiron is a long and meaningful journey.

In one scene Juan takes Chiron to the beach and teaches him the basic lessons of swimming, as a father would, lifting him so he can float in the coolness of the water. In more ways than one, Juan is the only person, who can keep him afloat in a world where few understand the boy. Chiron is bullied in school by a classmate who questions Chiron’s masculinity. At home, he arrives to a mother who is usually drugged out on her own or drugged out with male company. He doesn’t have anyone to turn to for support except Juan and Teresa, played by Janelle Monáe, who lives not far from Chiron’s apartment complex. He has questions about his sexuality, but he rather hide behind silence then become ostracized by the people who put their masculinity on display, as a kind of test to weaken him. By rebelling in a quiet, conforming way, he is inviting people to pry him open and judge him.

The score of the film draws you to the urgency being felt by the characters on-screen in moments of raw clarity. Some of the best scenes are accompanied by the sound of the beach at night, the waves clashing somewhere far, the moon illuminating dark corridors, the palm trees swooning, the humid days where people are out in the streets. You can feel this hot place in the agitated moments when Chiron’s mother is in the middle of a drug-fueled argument in the heat of the night or when Chiron is walking home from a rough day in the Florida sun, and he is met with the teasing of a bully.

Chiron has a quiet demeanor and feels out of place. He never answers with more than one or two words, and even when adults bribe him with a hot meal, he still only says a few words, leaving a feeling of sadness and uncertainty in the observer. Juan and Teresa want to help him; they listen and are there for him, which is sometimes enough. Often more is said with fewer words, but the emotions expressed by the character’s actions, leave you wishing he could express those thoughts hovering above him during his interactions, especially when he stands across an old friend he hasn’t spoken to since since high school.

As an observer Chiron’s silence feels like a burden that we all carry, and when it ends you wish he could have said more, but it’s possible silence was his only defense.

Arrival: Language and thought


Alien encounters and the study of language.

The theory of Linguistic Reality, expressed by  19th century thinker, Wilhelm Von Humboldt, tells us that language shapes our worldview and cognition. Language is a construct with intricate patterns that is heavily ingrained in our cognitive process, making it possible to influence our thoughts and decisions.

Other civilizations have language construct that may appear strange to western speakers. Quechua—an indigenous language spoken by the people of the Andes— never developed into a written form until the Spaniards arrived. It was always seen as an oral language that was kept alive by the descendants of the Incas. One can only imagine how it feels to know a language only through its oral form without ever having learned an alphabet system.

Arrival is one of the few films to explore connections between language, thought process and worldview. The work presents us with a realistic alien encounter that is relevant despite its futuristic elements. Arrival was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and is based on the 1998 short story, “Story of Your Life” by science fiction writer, Ted Chiang. Villeneuve also directed Enemy in 2013, which has been compared to Memento for it’s Kafkaesque style. Similarly this film carries flashbacks not always appearing in linear order. We meet Louise Banks, a linguistics professor, played by Amy Adams, who is the sole communicator between an alien species and the befuddled, and easily agitated human population. As the irrational generals and political pundits carry a message of fear, the populous tend to follows, but there’s a push and pull between the science community and elected officials. The scientists and linguists have less time to study the aliens than it would take for the military to blow the aliens’ heptapods (a gray structure resembling a pill) that floats over grand natural landscapes.

In the beginning of the film, we see glimpses of Banks playing with her daughter and subsequently learning that she has a rare disease. Though the film never explains the connection between the present and the past, we assume it’s her daughter, and believe those are memories.

When communicating with the aliens, Banks has a seemingly simple question, “What is your purpose on earth?” She breaks down the complexity of the question, that would hardly baffle an earthly being, but could be taken as something else entirely by an alien from another planet. They must first understand that a question demands an answer, Banks explains. We don’t know if “Your” for them means the individual or a collective group. She says what if they think of themselves as a collective body and not individuals? The idea of purpose may also be difficult to grasp, since that concept may not exist in their world. What if there is no such thing as reasons or outcomes for them?



When communicating with the aliens, Banks tries to find commonalities between the two worlds. In one scene she uses basic name introductions that may produce commonalities. Her study requires patience to understand the new language and their way of thinking, so she can phrase her questions properly. The scene is a reminder of compassionate forms of communicating. Irrational fear doesn’t play into Bank’s study until some soldiers, after having listened to an angry radio pundit, decide to take matters into their own hands.

Banks is the only woman among many men trying to influence the powerful to base their decisions less on fear and more on reason. What does that say about the role that women can play in society? How can we influence society to use language that is appropriate and helpful? The film draws a powerful connection to the current political climate. The shortsightedness that is present in the movie is one we see time and time again. We would gladly bomb an alien species that could help us, rather than understand their language. If the generals had their way Ian, a theoretical physicist, working alongside Banks, would have never realized the circular symbols were related to the concept time.

Arrival seems to appear in waves, carrying us through contemplative, foggy blue-gray skies and ongoing flashbacks. The way Banks stares out towards the endless fields of Montana is similar, as when she’s in front of the aliens; it’s a moment of awakened knowledge and peace. The film does leave out some logistical explanations, especially when the scientists suddenly arrive at fully interpreting and translating the alien symbols. There seems to be no eureka moment when they discovered how to decipher the circular symbols that have no correlation to anything human.

The hosts are not real


We speak the right words, and create life—out of chaos,” Ford says. “You can’t play without being acquainted with the devil.

The mind of a human is complicated; it’s filled with cells, nerves, connectors and concepts less tangible: memories and stories we tell ourselves over and over. Those layered parts make up a human mind. When a robot is made in our image, programmed to have similar characteristics, there’s always a final piece: consciousness, that sense of awareness that is either a result of those layered parts or the initial piece of constructing a sentient being, one who has the ability to distinguish between the different levels of morality on its own. Philosophers throughout history have struggled to define the nature of consciousness. If indeed consciousness is a mechanistic output, then it’s possible AI can mimic this output, even in its basic form.

The engineers at Westworld, essentially built computers in the form of humans, from scratch, coding their individual narratives.  At the helm is the pragmatic Ford, the AI creator at Westword, a western theme-park. He understand that controlling the AI (hosts) while also giving them a natural quality warrants some risk, but believes he can control them. When he explains his reasoning for applying reveries to the hosts, he tells Bernard, “You’re a product of a mistake…evolution creates mistakes.” The creator insists that guests come back because of the subtleties of these characters and their interesting storylines. Guests want to be the first to discover those subtleties, and possibly fall in love with those characteristics. Guests may know who they are, but they go to Westworld to get a glimpse of who they could be in an alternative world that’s filled with danger. Some hosts seem happy being idle and picking easy characters to interact with, others like the man in black, need to find purpose and control in a game that is meant to trick new visitors.

Though we keep hearing these artificial creatures are not real, they are too lifelike for us not to become enchanted as the guests do, and we end up rooting for them to escape. What’s scary is how often science fiction predicts future technologies. Realistically we’re not far from creating this type of AI.  But the questions gnawing robotic engineers has always been how to create artificial consciousness. Westworld seems to go further by adding that if true artificial consciousness was possible it would be a cause for alarm, especially in a world where the hosts are not supposed to be free, but subservient to the guests (the real humans).

Dolores, one of the oldest AI (host) from Westworld.


We see the hosts through the eyes of the guests, but also the lab workers who interview them and update them with their touch screen pads. The hosts and lab workers don’t run parallel lives, since the background of the hosts can be altered during review sessions, making it possible to erase their memories. The hosts consider morality, but their deaths are not final, they simply get fixed after being “killed.” The only real death is decommission.

Westworld dives not only into the realm of humans building AI, but the implied ethical questions, especially when the hosts go rogue, disobeying their narrative boundaries. Westworld is a made up world, yet everything seems so real. What does it mean to be human? Do AI have rights? Do they have free will? Do the guests have free will? They too are control by the boundaries of the park. Finding control within the game is an illusion, because the real decisions come from the creators, the masters of code.

As proposed by Hegel, it’s evident that the timeline of history shows us there’s a movement towards freedom, true freedom. Individual have come to understand and master the world of illusions we created for ourselves or others. He believed that humans created God, to pretend that God created us so someone could be responsible for us. This may not be a mistake necessarily, but it demonstrates we are the creators of our own narrative, no matter how deluded it turns out. We turned the idea of God into a convenient story, filled it with commandments and rules, that we sometimes don’t understand or obey. We are the slaves of our own deluded fiction, and Ford is no different. He says, “Self-delusion is a gift of natural selection as well.”

In one of the earlier episodes we find out about the original creator, Arnold, who had devised a pyramid to explain the AI’s internal workings: memory, improvisation, self-interest, but the top was left blank. Ford explains, “He had a theory, based on the Bicameral mind. The idea that primitive man believed the voice they heard was the word of god. It was the blueprint for building a cognition mind. Their own voice would later take over.”

Ford values the art of creating interesting storylines, and indulges in watching the AI integrate a nuanced narrative. This behavior pattern of Ford, foreshadows the final moments of the first season. In the last episode, Westword seems to be driving this point home: the real god is the human mind. If the second season carries the theme of chaos, it seems evident we will witness most of the hosts making independent decisions apart from the creators, a true slip of evolution’s leash.




Ixcanul: Volcano

Ixcanul, by Jayro Bustamante.
Ixcanul, by Jayro Bustamante.

On the screen, we see the striking, beautiful face of María and her bulbous eyes under the sparks of a fireplace. The mother helps the girl get ready, by cleaning her soft face with a small rag and putting a headdress on her. The latter part cuts to the everyday scenes of the two Mayan women as they handle the chores, from cooking to taking the eggs from the chicken coop. In one scene the mother teaches the daughter how do skin a pig. She tells the daughter, “smile,” when her future husband visits the family. All the relatives laugh and cheer, boasting about married life and how María will enjoy it, yet she sits idly, wishing she were not there.

The two women take care of the shanty home, while the husband works the land, which has been invaded by snakes. The landowner who plans to marry María’s gives him poison to kill them off. The landowner appears to be much older than María, and has been married before. He seems fair but also crude and unflinching, paying his laborers on the coffee field unless they drink their money away or try to cheat when picking coffee beans, but he also doesn’t inspire honor.

Ixcanul roughly translates to “volcano” in the Mayan dialect of Kaqchikel. Though a volcano may be dormant for a long time, one day it will erupt, and you get this sensation from María, not just because of her pregnancy but because she longs to escape.

The silence dissipates throughout the film as the mother tells the daughter to watch over the pigs— and the sun and wind blow their hair against their faces, or when the mom tells the daughter to count her moons. “Did you count your moons?” she asks, when she discovers the daughter is pregnant. Underneath the moonlight they shower together, and the mother clasps the daughter’s face and pats her hair down. María has sex with one of the laborers, but her mother does not reproach her too harshly, instead gives her a few herbal concoction to get rid of the baby, because she knows the landowner won’t marry her, but when none of those work, she tells María, “The baby is meant to live.”

The first sign of modernity appears when a laborer mentions going to “Los Estados Unidos.” Also when the landowner’s red truck comes down the highway, which is not far from the village. The parents don’t have to venture out until they’re forced to take the daughter to the hospital. The contrast of the Guatemalan city, the loud traffic and the bright lights is an alarming juxtaposition to the quiet life by the volcano filled airy scenes of natural landscapes and a spiritual closeness to mother nature.

Everyone in the village speaks the Mayan dialect. It’s only when we see a census worker speaking to the family that we realize, the alien language of Spanish hovering above them. The census lady doesn’t understand their language, and so the landowner must translate, posing a future opportunity to alter the truth, since the indigenous family relies too heavily on his integrity.

What is even more troubling is no one at the hospital speaks their language even though 60 percent of the population in Guatemala is Mayan. Like in many central and south American countries with an indigenous population, children have been forced to learn Spanish and forget their native language. The consensus is to forget the old ways in order to progress. Knowing these facts, made it more significant for the director Jayro Bustamante to use the Kaqchikel dialect. It provides a direct link to another way of life. The words provide a color, a feeling that we can’t get with another language.

There’s also a sense of female strength throughout the film despite the circumstances. “It’s your daughter,” the father tells the mother after he finds out María is pregnant, as if to say it’s your problem, and you must solve it on your own. The daughter doesn’t have the final decision on whether she wants to marry the landowner. There are few signs of control over her sexuality and body: when she chases the handsome laborer, or when she decides to look for her baby. She begins to discover her own sexuality and her power as a women in an otherwise male-dominated world. This story is told by many girls who are married off too young and forced to take on responsibilities that don’t belong in a child or adolescent’s life.