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Silvestre Pantaleon
Directed by Roberto Olivares Ruiz and Jonathan D. Amith
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SILVESTRE PANTALEON is the story of an elderly man from the Nahuatl-speaking village of San Agustin Oapan, Mexico. It begins as a local curandero reads the protagonist's fortune in the cards and diagnoses the costly remedy to his ills: a complex series of offerings to the hearth, the ants, the river, and the deceased.

Silvestre Pantaleon then struggles to pull together the money needed to pay for the curing ceremony and provide for his family, dedicating himself to the only remunerative activities he knows: handcrafting rope (made from the fibers of an agave plant) for religious ceremonies and making seldom-used household objects that he alone still has the skills to produce.

film still

SILVESTRE PANTALEON--the result of a collaboration between an anthropologist who lives Oapan and a filmmaker dedicated to working in indigenous communities--unfolds with no interviews or narration. Rather, scenes from daily life are woven together in rich ethnographic detail and lingering imagery that explore a rural community situated in the shadow of a highway bridge to the international resort of Acapulco. Over this bridge pass thousands of tourists, oblivious to the village life just below yet worlds apart.

In Nahuatl with choice of English, Spanish, or French subtitles, along with a transcription of the Nahuatl dialogue.

DVD includes two PDF files with Nahuatl-English and Nahuatl-Spanish texts.


"Superb visually, this film is extremely valuable as a social and cultural document. It demonstrates the complex relationship between traditional and contemporary life in Latin American indigenous communities. The collaboration between the filmmaker and the linguistic anthropologist is a model for the rest of indigenous Latin America. The film is sensitive and thought provoking. It will appeal to both scholars and the general public and can be used effectively in classroom teaching."—Joel Sherzer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, Founder of the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America

"The cinematography is exquisite. The film is a profound and meditative ethnography on the life, livelihood, and artisanship of a patriarch and his family. It is recommended for anthropology, art, gerontology, and Latin American and Native American Studies courses."—Educational Media Reviews Online

"SILVESTRE PANTALEON is an extraordinary portrait of an ordinary man."—Anthropology Review Database

"SILVESTRE PANTALEON is a superb example of the intersection of endangered language research in a cultural context and documentary filmmaking. This film will be particularly useful in the university classroom in courses on language documentation, ethnography, cultural anthropology, or any class examining language-in-use as the portal to all aspects of Indigenous knowledge of craft, ceremony, ecology and economy. Furthermore, it serves as a model product of long-term language documentation research in a speaker community setting."—Dr. Andrea L. Berez, Department of Linguistics, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, and Technology Section Editor, Language Documentation and Conservation

Best Feature-Length Documentary, 2011 Morelia Film Festival
Pemio 360° (Principal Prize), 2011 International Documentary Film Festival of Mexico City
Gran Prix Tehuikan (Best film, all Categories), 2011 Montreal First Peoples' Festival
2011 National Geographic All Roads Film Festival
2012 Green Screens: Cinema Planeta, Film Society at Lincoln Center

65 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Release: 2012
Copyright: 2011

For individual consumers (home video)

This DVD is sold for private, home use only.

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Aging, Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America, Mexico, Nahuatl

Watch the trailer:

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