Cinema Releases - Tótem
Tótem by the Mexican director Lila Avilés is her second film after her highly acclaimed The Chambermaid (La Camarista) in 2018. This time, the setting is a large house where, over the course of a long day, family and friends meet for a dual ritual: it is the birthday of 7 year old Sol ‘s young father Tona, but as it will likely be his last, it is also a farewell ceremony.
Like the character of the bonsai-loving patriarch, Avilés takes meticulous care in shaping her own miniature, bending trajectories and feelings, pruning all frills and excess. Tótem amasses signs and forms of life: animals, insects, plants and a parade of wonderful human beings who are stronger together.
“Lila Avilés creates a richly textured, deeply compassionate portrait of a family that’s falling apart as one of its youngest members comes into consciousness…
“Tótem” is only Avilés’s second feature…but it’s also one of the finest movies you’ll see this year.”
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“…exquisite, emotionally overwhelming drama”
Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times
“A dazzling, vibrant child's-eye view of jubilation and tragedy.”
Jessica Kiang, Sight & Sound
Week commencing 1 Dec
|Curzon Bloomsbury||Brunswick Centre||London WC1N 1AW||08719 642838||all week|
|ICA Cinema||The Mall||London SW1Y 1BN||020 7930 3647||all week|
|Cine Lumiere||17 Queensberry Place||London SW7 2DT||020 7871 3515||all week|
|ArtHouse Crouch End||159 Tottenham Lane||London N8 9BT||020 8245 3099||all week|
|Hackney Picturehouse||20 Mare St||London E7 1HE||020 7326 2649||all week|
|Crouch End Picturehouse||165 Tottenham Lane||London N8 9BY||020 7326 2649||all week|
|Glasgow Film Theatre||12 Rose Street||Glasgow G3 6RB||020 8245 3099||all week|
|HOME||2 Tony Wilson Place||Manchester M15 4FN||0161 200 1500||all week|
|DCA||152 Nethergate||Dundee DD1 4EA||01382 432 444||all week|
|Depot||Pinwell Rd||Lewes BN7 2JS||01273 525354||all week|
Week commencing 8 Dec
|Garden Cinema||39 - 41 Parker St||London WC2B 5PQ||020 3931 8434||all week|
|Lexi Kensal Rise||194b Chamberlayne Rd||London NW10 3JU||020 3011 5523||9,10,11,13,14 Dec|
|Phoenix||Gandy St||Exeter EX4 3LS||01392667080||9,12,13,19 Dec only|
|Oxford Ultimate||Cowley Rd||Oxford OX4 iBN||01865 241 288||9,12,13 Dec|
Week commencing 15 Dec
|Watershed||1 Canon's Rd||Bristol BS1 5TX||0117 927 5100||all week|
|Phoenix Leicester||4 Midland St||Leicester LE1 1TG||0116 242 2800||all week|
|Broadway||14 - 18 Broad St||Nottingham NG1 3AL||0115 952 6611||all week|
Week commencing 22 Dec
Week commencing 29 Dec
|Hebden Bridge Picture House||New Road||Hebden Bridge HX7 8AD||01422 842807||30/12, 03/01|
|Chapter Arts Centre||Market Road||Cardiff CF5 1QE||029 2031 1050||6 days (not 31/12)|
Week commencing 5 Jan
Week commencing 12 Jan
|Curzon Cinema Screenings 16 Jan: Aldgate, Camden,Cantebury, Colchester,Kingston, Knutsford, Oxford,Richmond, Sheffield, Victoria, Wimbledon|
|Harbour St||Broadstairs CT10 1ET|
The Mexican director, screenwriter and producer founded the Limerencia Films production company in 2018. In the same year, she made her debut feature film The Chambermaid which screened at over 50 international festivals, won numerous awards and was selected as Mexico’s entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar. She has also been a jury member at the international film festivals in San Sebastián, Morelia and Lima.
|2023 EYE TWO TIMES MOUTH (Ojo Dos Veces Boca) short|
|2018 THE CHAMBERMAID (La Camarista)|
|2017 NENA (documentary)|
|2016 DÉJÀ VU (short)|
|Tonatiuh||Mateo García Elizondo|
|Napo||Juan Francisco Maldonado|
|Director & screenwriter||Lila Avilés|
|Sound Design||Guido Berenblum|
|Sound Mixer||Rune Palving|
|Production Design||Nohemi González Martínez|
|Costumes||Nora Solís and Jimena Fernández|
|Make up||Vanessa Campos|
|Casting||Gabriela Cartol and Lila Avilés|
|Assistant Director||Carmina Carballal|
|Production Manager||Héctor Zubieta|
|Co Producers||Per Damgaard Hansen,|
|Producers||Tatiana Graullera, Lila Avilés, Louise Riousse|
|With the support of||EFICINE PRODUCCIÓN-BBVA,|
|Danish Film Institute, HBF HUBERT BALS,|
|AIDE AUX CINÉMAS DU MONDE – CNC,|
|Visions Sud Est|
|with the support of||the SDC (Swiss Agency|
|for Development and Cooperation)|
|2023 — MEXICO / DENMARK / FRANCE|
|4K — 4:3 — 5.1 — SPANISH|
|BBFC Cert 12A|
"The second film from Mexican actor turned writer-director Lila Avilés, Tótem is exquisite – a vital ensemble drama that’s suffused with joy and love. Taking a child’s-eye view of the controlled chaos of preparations for a birthday party in honour of Sol’s terminally ill father, Tonatiuh (Mateo García Elizondo), it deftly balances grief against celebration; the shadow of death against a frame that is perpetually teeming with life."
Wendy Ide THE OBSERVER
"This heartbreaking, lyrical film captures family love with rare authenticity...this year's Mexican entry for the best-international feature Oscar, Tótem has met rave reviews since its premiere in Berlin way back in February.
It's another accomplished work from Avilés, who broke out with 2018's The Chambermaid, showcasing confidence in her lyrical, loose approach to a story that contains remarkable specificity and detail. She also platforms a discovery in Naíma Sentíes, the exceptional young actor who plays seven-year-old Sol, the focal point of this wide-ranging family portrait, who slowly comes to realize the painful undercurrent of this joyful gathering - an understanding that allows the film to gain new resonance in its wrenching final act."
David Canfield, VANITY FAIR
"One of the rare authentic miracles that a film can pull off is to depict the intimate and the seemingly inconsequential with absolute naturalness. That is something Mexican writer/director Lila Avilés achieves with elegance and insight in Tótem, her follow-up to much-praised 2018 debut The Chambermaid
Jonathan Romney, SCREEN
“There isn’t a false note in the tender Mexican drama “Tótem,” which follows the 7-year-old Sol (Naíma Sentíes, suitably luminous) as she navigates the chaos and indifference of her sprawling family during celebrations for her ailing father. With intricate staging, lapidary camerawork and an expressionistically warm palette — along charming appearances from the natural world — the writer-director Lila Avilés creates a richly textured, deeply compassionate portrait of a family that’s falling apart as one of its youngest members comes into consciousness. “Tótem” is only Avilés’s second feature — her first, “The Chambermaid,” screened at the 2019 festival — but it’s also one of the finest movies you’ll see this year.
Manohla Dargis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Affecting...Although unequivocally underpinned by profound sadness and impending loss, a tender spirit of warmth and levity permeates the screen, sustaining a buoyancy that keeps the film from sinking into mawkish waters."
Marina Ashioti, LITTLE WHITE LIES
"A highlight of the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival competition…this exquisite, emotionally overwhelming drama is tellingly bookended by closeups of a 7-year-old girl named Sol (the wonderful Naíma Sentíes). In between those two images — one full of joy, the other suffused with sorrow — the gifted writer-director Lila Avilés (“The Chambermaid”) unfolds the story of a teeming, hurting, hilarious and resilient clan coming together to bid one of its members a heartbreaking farewell. Terminal illness and fractious families are hardly new topics in world cinema, but so achingly assured is Avilés’ grasp of character and narrative, so attuned is her handheld camera to nuances of perspective, setting and atmosphere, that she pulls you into the action with a depth and force of feeling that eludes some of her more veteran peers."
Justin Chang, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Lila Avilés achieves something incredible in this portrayal, recognised by her Oscar nomination for best foreign picture next year. Just like these poignant moments in life, Tótem is beautiful and devastating at the same time."Lia Gomez-Lang, SOUNDS AND COLOURS
"Intimate, claustrophobic and exquisitly acted, it features an impressive performance by Senties in her first ever film role who, along with Saori Gurza as her young cousin, steal the film."
Maria Duarte, THE MORNING STAR
"There is a beautiful...sadness at the centre of this new movie. The heartbreak feels very real."
Peter Bradshaw, THE GUARDIAN
"Semi-autobiographical Mexican drama about a terminally-ill young father is bursting with palpable suffering, but also humanity, kindness and hope.
Maybe a miracle could happen..the family remain open to any possibility of absolution from their suffering, however frivolous and absurd...some hilarious moments."
John Waters, D MOVIES
"A Mexican Family Portrait, Bursting With Beauty and Drama.
Like some of the large ensemble dramas of the Romanian New Wave, Totem packs in a massive amount of drama into a small space, and the rewards are immense."
Leslie Felperin, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
"The focused, atmospheric drama is said to be both sombre and uplifting as it explores the experiences of a man coming to terms with his mortality, and should further cement Avilés as one of the most promising filmmakers to emerge from Latin America in recent years."
Eric Kohn, INDIEWIRE
"Mexican director Lila Avilés' multilayered follow-up to 'The Chambermaid' is an intimate, emotionally rich Berlin Competition entry. Tótem immerses audiences in a boisterous family gathering. Secrets are made and truths revealed at an unforgettable family gathering.
Peter Debruge, VARIETY
Nicholas Rapold, THE FINANCIAL TIMES ("The Last Thing I Saw" Berlinale Podcast)
"The idea of different things being in and out of focus for the various generation runs through a film that has sweetly comic moments and poignancy in equal measure."
Amber Wilkinson, EYE FOR FILM
"A dazzling, vibrant child's-eye view of jubilation and tragedy. The choral impression is of liveliness and good humour, but there's an undertow of sorrow: the collective helplessness of all the people who love Tona knowing they cannot love him back to life. The film is nothing so manipulative as a tearjerker, with Avilés's exceptional direction keeping sentimentality at bay while still, almost magically, sampling the different flavours of grief that run like currents and crosscurrents between the member of this close-knit, bickering family."
Jessica Kiang, SIGHT & SOUND
“On the whole, Tótem is imbued with the warmth and liveliness of human connectivity".... combines strong humour with emotionally shattering drama. This terrific collage of human relationships finishes as gracefully and as complexly as what has preceded it.”
William Stotter, LOUD AND CLEAR
"Mexican Director Lila Avilés stuns with a soul-nourishing microcosm built on profound love in the face of grief.
As remarkable as “The Chambermaid” was, “Tótem” feels richer in its sublimely compassionate, cinematic observations on subjects for which words alone wouldn’t suffice."
Carlos Aguilar, THE PLAYLIST
★★★1/2 out of 4 stars
“Tótem is a film of unexpected beauty, using its main character as a conduit for exploring the quandaries of a family navigating matters of love, heartbreak, class, innocence, and, perhaps most prominently, mortality.In place of a miracle, Avilés gently assures us that, with an abundance of friends, family, and, yes, even the mystical assistance of flaming bread, death can be approached with wistful hope.”
Greg Nussen, SLANT magazine
"Loose and chaotic, this Mexican drama features refreshing rhythms of family life over a pivotal day. Filmmaker Lila Aviles is an expert observer of human behaviour, creating a range of fully formed characters here, each with his or her own preoccupations and little sense of allowing others their own personal space.Aviles is bracingly honest about the push and pull of family, the grim truth of cancer and how pointless it is to protect children by lying to them. She also finds hope and humour in unexpected places. And it's fascinating to watch the events through the eyes of this young girl who is just working out what the grown-ups won't tell her.
Rich Cline, SHADOWS ON THE WALL