Jayro Bustamante

I make activist films in the sense they show what people don't want to see.

Through a body of work permeated with magical realism, film maker Jayro Bustamante examines the ills plaguing Guatemala. His trilogy composed of Ixcanul (2015), Temblores (2017) and Llorona (2019) delves into the realms of political film and genre cinema with sophistication.

Updated on 10/03/2020

2 min

Born in 1977, Jayro Bustamante spent his childhood in the highlands of Guatemala. In this wild and isolated environment, he developed a prolific imagination, nourished by the magical realism that permeates Guatemalan culture. He discovered cinema in front of his television, through videotapes. After working in advertising, he left in 2000 with a small amount of savings in his pocket to study the seventh art in Europe.

Returning to Guatemala in the early 2010s, he made his first films and was a pioneer in a country where the film industry was non-existent. Recognition soon followed as the 2015 Berlinale awarded the Alfred Bauer Prize for his first feature film Ixcanul. This dive into the land of his childhood evokes the discrimination suffered by the Mayan community. It is also – with Temblores in 2017 and La Llorona in 2019 – the first part of a trilogy that tackles the taboos of Guatemalan society.

At the heart of every Jayro Bustamante film is a real, intimate story that the film maker turns into a political fable. In Ixcanul, the story of Maria’s character is inspired by that of a woman her mother met when she was a doctor. The one in Temblores was inspired by an encounter with a man torn between his hidden homosexuality and his life as a father. These fates recount a contemporary Guatemala where discrimination persists and past crimes remain repressed.

Using the techniques of the thriller and the horror film, Jayro Bustamante returns above all to an imaginary world deeply rooted in Latin culture. Fantasy mixes with reality to throw a clear and illuminating light on society.


The lack of a film industry in his country led Jayro Bustamante to his launch on the international stage. This opening enabled him to place Guatemala on the world cinema map by becoming the first film maker to represent his country with Ixcanul at the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

Although his films, which are highly critical of institutions, are sometimes poorly received in his country, they have received great recognition from international critics.

Their flavour reflects on Guatemalan cinema and allows him to focus, through the production company Casa, on the emergence of new local talents.

  • 2000


    Jayro Bustamante leaves Guatemala for Paris, where he joins the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma Français (the French Film Academy).

  • 2012


    His first short, Cuando sea grande, shot entirely in Guatemala, wins the CNC (National Centre for Cinema and Animated Image ) Quality Award at the Clermont-Ferrand Festival.

  • 2015


    Ixcanul wins the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Festival. He represents Guatemala at the Oscars and Golden Globes the following year.

  • 2019


    Release of Llorona, a film that concludes the trilogy that included Ixcanul and Temblores.

The Institut français and the film

La Llorona, by Jayro Bustamante, was supported by the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund in 2018. This Institut français programme provides support to foreign film-makers for film projects co-produced with France, whether they be feature-length fiction, animated films or creative documentaries. Find out more about the Aide aux cinémas du monde programme

L'institut français, LAB