Special guests for the 2015 Kayche Festival were Edgar Perez and Ireri Vargas who are organisers of the Festival de Cine Y Video Indigena that is based in Morelia, along with visiting judges Carolina Paredes, a filmmaker who has a PhD in Visual Anthropology and Zapotec broadcaster Juan José García Ortiz from the Festival Internacional de Cine y Video de Pueblos Indígenas in Oaxaca, and myself, touring works from the SOLID Screen Festival, representing International Indigenous Women.
Aside from the hands-on work that the Kayche Collective does, they also engage local artists such as Ricardo López Méndez, who sculpted the official festival award, and screen makers such as Judzil Palma who produced the promotional animation for this years festival.
The Kayche Festival logo depicts an eye, which, for the award and their short animated promo this year, is based on a traditional Mayan story of a bird that was chosen as a custodian of the maize kernel. The Ts'iu bird went into the fire, and came out jet black, with red eyes. Check out the animation which is played to kick off all of the festival screenings: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyi97DznYSysP4u5SY9la_w
The Kayche Festival is based in Merida, a coastal metropolis in the Mexican state of Yucatan. The Yucatán Peninsula is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east and by the Gulf of Mexico to the north and west. Subject to a harsh colonisation process, and previous to being renamed, Merida itself was a large Mayan city called T'HO. Situated on what is now the main plaza, it was conquered by the Spaniards, who dismantled all the Mayan pyramids and used the huge stones as the foundation for buildings such as the Catedral de San Ildefonso (1561-1599), the oldest cathedral on the American continent. It is still there, on the east side of of the Grand Plaza, as a constant reminder of this era, as is the Palacio de Gobierno (1892), on the north side which houses 27 murals illustrating the violent, bloody history of Yucatan. Often called the White City because its streets and sidewalks are cleaned twice everyday, and because of the large amount of limestone used to construct its buildings, this colonial city is a paradox of two cultures that have influenced its development over the last 500 years.
The name Kayché is a Mayan word that refers to sewing, specifically, the netting needle used to weave the traditional Mayan hammock, and similarly it is symbolic for the way the Kayche Festival weaves together the works and approach their programming. It promises to weave screenings together with consequent discussion, finding the common ground that allows an understanding, and propose a more equitable society.
Although the festival provides an international context, with films in Spanish from different corners of the world, the Kayche Collective work really hard to provide engagement locally, in regional and remote communities. These touring screenings and discussions are presented in partnership with small town cultural centres, mainstream and and Mayan universities, schools and technical colleges, with predominantly Mayan and Mestiza appreciative audiences in good numbers.
The screenings in Merida are also presented in a range of different venues such as the local independent Cine Cafe, government cultural institutions, small theatres and universities. Some of the events in Merida compete with other events and are therefore not that well attended, but the small size of the venues allow for the good feeling and enthusiasm for screen culture in the room, to make up for the numbers void. This is a similar scenario for some of the Indigenous Film Festivals and other similar events in Australia, but it is surprising for me to find Mexico the same, on many levels.