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Chicueyicuicatl: Eight Songs in Nahuatl, for a Female Singer, Percussion Quartet and an Island with Birds

This is the first feature-length musical film in any language Native to the Americas, with the exclusivity in the Nahuatl language and instruments native to Mexico. The location is an inhabited island in Lake Chapala, a historical and archaeological site with historical stages more than three thousand years old, and which is considered a sacred place by indigenous peoples. The film was shot during February 2021, and its development in a silent and isolated environment resulted in a high quality 5.1 surround natural landscape incorporated to the orchestration planning.
The script is made up of eight songs (cuicatl) that make up a thematic arc about the human existence as a subjective experience. The beginning is an aubade, a metaphor for childbirth: the soloist singer seems to emerge from a veil, a luminous placenta preceded by the singing of birds at sunrise. The first three cuicatl, entitled Ihcuac tlaneci (“At Sunup”), Can tiyetoc, noyolotzin? (“Where are You Going, My Beloved Heart?”) and To huey tlahtzin (“Our Parents, Worthy of Respect”), correspond to traditional texts from central and southern Mexico, collected by Guatemalan poet José María Bonilla (1898–1957).
The eight-song set’s zenith is composed of other three cuicatl: Auh tocnihuané (“Our Friends”), Cacahuaxochitl (“Cacao Blossoms”) and Icniuhyotl in tlalticpac (“Brotherhood on Earth”), in which the sense of existence owes much to the appreciation of nutrients and sensuality, and the value of friendship and the act of sharing. These three texts come from great cuicamatini, the “master singers” of ancient Mexico, recorded on paper from the 16th century on.
The last two cuicatl, Yolocuepaliztli (“Heart’s Uncertainty”) and Zan achica (“On Earth just for a While”), symbolize, respectively, the moments of doubt and anguish facing up pain and death, and the wisdom of resignation, acceptance and strength in abandonment at the dusk of life.
To the eyes and ears of Western culture, the character who sings could be identified as Gaia, the Earth’s spirit, with its own birth, breath, development, maturity, aging and death. However, for the Mexican idiosyncrasy this is understood through another, different meaning: an always dual character, whose expressive vigor and creative sensuality is symbolized by Xochiquetzal, the “Precious Flower”, and whose complement is Tlazolteotl, the wise and old mother who inhabits the darkness within beings and their decay. Young lady and old lady, by which we hear a double or multiple voice with the same song and a single existential course, sometimes as harmony, but other times with a certain echo and dissonance.

  • Gabriel Pareyon
    Xochicuicatl cuecuechtli
  • Gabriel Pareyon
  • Charles De Graaf
  • Priscella Uvalle
    Key Cast
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Chicueyicuicatl: ocho cantos en náhuatl para una cantante, cuarteto de percusiones y una isla con aves
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Music Video
  • Genres:
    Indigenous, Musical, Experimental
  • Runtime:
    54 minutes 45 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 1, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    520,000 MXN
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • ULTRACinema 2021
    November 12, 2021
    North American Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Parai Musical International Awards 2021
    November 13, 2021
    Asian Premiere
  • Wairoa Maori Film Festival
    New Zealand
    June 2, 2022
    Oceania Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Malabar Music Film Festival
    Malabar, Kerala
    June 3, 2022
    Kerala Premiere
    Special Jury Mention
  • Malabar Music Film Festival
    Malabar, Kerala
    June 3, 2022
    Kerala Premiere
    Best Indigenous Music Film
  • Malabar Music Film Festival
    Malabar, Kerala
    June 3, 2022
    Kerala Premiere
    Best Nature Song Video
  • MIC Istmo
    Juchitan, Oaxaca
    December 1, 2022
    Indigenous Premiere in Mexico
    Official Selection
  • Munich Music Video Awards
    November 12, 2021
    European Premiere
    La Paz, Baja California
    November 25, 2021
    Californian Premiere
    Official Selection
Distribution Information
  • FilminLatino
    Country: Mexico
    Rights: Internet
Director Biography - Gabriel Pareyon

Gabriel Pareyon received a master's degree in music and visual arts at the University of Leiden and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and a PhD from the Faculty of Arts, Helsinki University. A student of the Nahuatl language, in 2015 he was recognized with the Music Theater Now! prize from the International Theater Institute (ITI) and the UNESCO World Organization for Performative Arts, for the recovery of the cuicatl genre, based on his study of the ancient Mexican Songs. Currently he is a national researcher (INBA, Mexico) and professor at the Department of History, University of Guadalajara.

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Director Statement

The skills necessary for our immediate future will be impossible if we fail to recognize the value of the knowledge, philosophies and languages of indigenous peoples. The rising current crisis worldwide threatens the most delicate relationships for life on Earth. Humanity will be able to understand the meaning of its place in the world, only from a new harmonization of these relationships. My work as a director and composer aligns to these premises as driving principles.