Dicing with Death: Guatemala: Under the Mayan Sky

Known for outstanding natural beauty, Guatemala is currently going through a never-ending economic crisis, making the country one of the poorest in Latin America. Whether urban or rural, everyone is affected and many turn to the Mayan gods they worship for help.

Such is the case of Tomas, a shaman whose steps are guided by his Mayan ancestors. To follow in their footsteps, he sets off on a pilgrimage with his apprentice Eric. They head for the Mayan city of El Mirador, one of the oldest and most inaccessible on the continent. It’s a real crossroads that awaits the shaman and his apprentice. They’ll have to prove themselves to the gods by smoking the “cigar of the ancestors”, finding a cave in the middle of the jungle or crossing an underground river in total darkness… But Eric is ready to face anything and put up with anything. For the young man, it’s the obligatory step on the way to becoming a shaman.

Anthony, for his part, has decided to rely on his courage rather than the spirits. “The gods aren’t going to bring food or medicine to my family”. At just 18 years of age, this tall, baby-faced man has looked after his mother and siblings alone since their father abandoned them. To earn his living, Anthony drives a “tuktuk” cab. But in these urban areas, competition is fierce and it’s not easy to make a go of it… So Anthony has decided to go against the grain: from now on, he’ll be taking his tuktuk up mountain roads. It’s an audacious gamble, since these roads are dangerous and only 4X4s usually venture onto them. “My mother cries before every departure. She doesn’t like this job, but I have no other choice if we want to get by.

Hugo’s daily life is also one of dangerous survival. The son and grandson of a fisherman, he has no choice but to follow in the footsteps of his elders. Become a shark hunter! It’s illegal, but it can be very profitable. But the accidents are as numerous and terrible as the pay! And then there’s the cat-and-mouse game with the coastguard. “If they catch us, we’re guaranteed jail time. I don’t want to end my life behind bars. Between that and the shark attacks, I don’t know how my father managed his whole life…”.

He may not be in the business much longer. Sharks are beginning to disappear, victims of overfishing and pollution. Every year, 2% of the plastic that pollutes Guatemala’s oceans escapes from its rivers! The images of this plastic tsunami are terrifying, yet Axel, 12, and Alfredo, 7, wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for this garbage. The brothers live with their mother on a rubbish dump. After school, they spend the afternoons collecting plastic bottles and scrap metal, which they sell to recyclers. “The smell of the garbage is very strong and when they burn it, the smoke intoxicates us. It will kill us if we stay here too long”.

Opposite their dump is the border, symbol of all their hopes… ” Can you see the shore opposite? That’s Mexico! That’s where the American dream begins. I promise you that one day, we’ll live in the United States.


  • Year: 2023
  • Duration: 50 mins
  • Production: Tony Comiti Productions
  • Director: Charles Comiti and Julien Boluen
  • Available Versions:
  • Country of production: France

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