Deep in the lush Mexican rain forests, live the three remaining speakers of Zikril, a language that its speakers claim enables them to speak with the animals. A young linguist, Martin (Fernando Alvarez Rebeil), has come to the area to record the last of Zikril. Time is running out though as Jacinta, one of the last three speakers is terminally ill and the other two haven't spoken to each other for over 50 years, since they fell out over a woman.
Martin has to find a way to get Isauro (Jose Manuel Poncelis) and Evaristo (Eligio Melendez) to talk to each other. Enlisting the help of Evaristo's granddaughter Lluvia (Fatima Molina) Martin tries to bring the two elderly men together again, discovering in the process that their feud is much more complex than it first appears.
The film is beautifully made and moving, though it tends towards the melodramatic. Personal relationships are very much the focus of the film with the issue of language loss being in the background. This avoids the film feeling preachy, while the fact that the scenes in Zikril are not subtitled demonstrates very clearly how much the loss of a language can mean for people's understanding of the world. Once Zikril dies, its mythologies and ways of seeing the world will die too. For example, the Zikril speakers' belief that after death they enter The
Enchantment that lies through a cave in the rainforest and their beleif that they can communicate with all other creatures in the forests. Their non-Zikril-speaking descendents will inevitably feel less connected to the natural world around them.
Zikril is an invented language, that represents all the languages in the world that are close to extinction, and those that have already died. The story in this film is entirely fictional, but it's not far from reality for speakers of many languages.
I Dream in Another Language is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival at 1pm, Saturday 1 July at Odeon Lothian Road. You can book your tickets here.
Here are links to the other reviews I've written of films seen in the festival:
God's Own Country.
Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).
Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).
Leaning into the Wind.
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.
The Dark Mile.
Red Dog, True Blue.
This Beautiful Fantastic.
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.