La Vida y Los Muertos
Day of the Dead • Oaxaca, Mexico
|La Vida y Los Muertos is filled with rich visuals and captivating music to evoke the beauty, joy, sadness and magic of the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico. The film winds its way from the funky urban feel of the city of Oaxaca, through the intimate home altars in Teotitlan and Mitla, the enchanting candle-lit midnight cemetery of Atzompa, the wild demon dancers of Etla, and the joyous flower covered graves in San Antonino. La Vida y Los Muertos is a “silent” film with no narration, inviting the audience to immerse themselves in the music and the imagery to experience a slowing down of time that is an inherent part of the festival. The film provides an opportunity to notice the care and thoughtfulness of the preparations and to experience the joyous celebration of life.|
As an art film, La Vida y Los Muertos is a journey through the city of Oaxaca and five near-by villages during the celebration of Day of the Dead. In the city and in the villages, this beautiful festival of death is very lively. The juxtaposition of music, food and celebration with cemeteries and death is surreal. With little narration, rich visuals and complex soundtrack, each chapter captures the mood and the impression of one particular place.
With music by:
Candles and Spirits
In Atzompa families picnic, read books, visit and dance in an all night vigil in the candle-lit graveyard. The air is thick with the distinct smell of marigolds and burning wax that cover the richly decorated tombs. Vendors outside the cemetery gates cook up fresh tortillas and quesadillas and sell warm punch, hot chocolate and mezcal. The festival maintains its energy with a DJ and bands who playing salsa, norteña and pop music till dawn.
Celebration with the Dead
The city of Oaxaca is known throughout the year for it large public installations of contemporary art, omnipresent parades, imaginative graffiti as well as street music and art. During days of the Dead, the festivities intensify and includes improvisational altars on the streets, in businesses, and restaurants. Made of wet sand than covered with colored sand, flower petals, colored seeds and sawdust the Tapetes de Arena (Rugs of Sand) on the sidewalks and plazas, last only a few days. Like ephemeral Tibetan sand paintings, these colorful playful artworks, and the festival itself are reminders of the richness and beauty and the temporary nature of life.
The Family and the Dead
In Mitla, the welcome for the dead begins with a visit to the village cemetery to clean and place flowers and food on the grave. At noon, church bells and fireworks wake up the deceased. Family members burn incense to lead the dead from the cemetery back home where they are greeted with abundantly decorated family altars. In Teotitlan, the dead come at 3:00 in the afternoon. As in a Passover Seder, the door to the house is left open and a place is set at the table for the non-visible guest. In both towns, throughout the day and long into the night, families visit each others' homes, bringing more flowers and food as gifts to the dead. After long visits, much food and drink, the host family loads up the guests with food to take home with them.
Dance of the Dead
Like a collective catharsis, dancers in San Agustin Etla, transform themselves into otherworldly versions of politicians, taskmasters and their wives as well as clergymen, doctors and other characters. An unearthly herdsman leads a flock of demons who wear garments covered with thousands of tiny bells that sway, jingle and sparkle as they move. The group moves through the village streets and square, dancing, drinking and making mischief for 24 hours without stopping.
The villagers in San Antonino, grow many of the fresh flowers that are sold to neighboring villages for Los Muertos, and their family graves become the canvas for their imagination. The residents use the petals of the flor inmortal, (the straw flower – literally translated as immortal flower) to create elaborate portraits of saints, religious scenes or personal tributes on family tombs. Complete with a contest for the best decorated grave, the town also hosts a huge festival at the entrance to the cemetery complete with brass bands and carnival rides.