Direction: Lila Avilés
with Naíma Sentíes, Monserrat Marañon, Marisol Gasé, Saori Gurza, Teresita Sánchez
Mexico 2023, 95', Spanish with german subtitles
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In her second film after The Chambermaid in 2018, Lila Avilés leaves behind the cramped hotel rooms of her debut but continues to work on the connection between relationships and interior spaces. This time, the setting is a large house where, over the course of a long day, family and friends meet for a dual ritual: it is the birthday of young father and painter Tona, but as it will likely be his last, it is also a farewell ceremony. There is duality in the film’s soul, too, with the frenzy of preparations and the spontaneity of the celebration concealing the profoundly archaic and spiritual dimension of the title. Tona’s weakened body is initially invisible, protected in a room where he tries to summon up the strength required for the humanist ceremony in which he will be showered with all the love and affection needed to face his final journey.
Like the character of the bonsai-loving patriarch, Avilés takes meticulous care in shaping her own miniature, bending trajectories and feelings, pruning all frills and excess. A film that prepares for loss, Tótem amasses signs and forms of life: animals, insects, plants and a parade of wonderful human beings who are stronger together.(Berlinale 2023)
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