Guie’Dani’s Navel : 5th Gustavus Latinx Film Festival Posted on April 10th, 2021 by

The film, Guie’Dani’s Navel is a story quite different from others in its category with a strikingly intense main character. The movie is directed and written by Xavi Sala who portrays a story of a young girl rebelling her reality while yearning for more than servitude. The film uses long silences that may seem dull at times but fulfills its goal of telling the story of adversity between indigenous cultures and that of a modernizing world.

Guie’Dani’s Navel was released in Mexico in 2019 and has since appeared in over thirty festivals and has won nine different awards. The film tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl Guie’Dani who accompanies her mother to work for a wealthy family living in New Mexico, almost 300 miles from their Zapotec village near Oaxaca. Upon arrival the house mother gives Guie’Dani and her mother a tour of the home with instruction on how to clean and what is expected while adding, the house is now their home which is a stark contrast to when she said in affect, it is one thing to live in this house and it is another to possess after she catches Guie’Dani jumping on a trampoline.

Guie’Dani and her mother experience a culture different from their village when arriving at the home of their employers. Throughout the film viewers see how the two are pushed to accept a ‘modern’ world and leave their Zapotec village behind. The two characters dress using tortillas to eat their meals but by the end of the film they are using silverware with tortillas. This is the product of their property owners who subtly suggest major changes that move them away from what they know, such as using a robotic vacuum cleaner, changing their clothes to be presentable in the eyes of the landlady, and stop communicating in their ‘dialect’ as it is referred to in the film. These oppressions from the landlords become a continuous problem that Guie’Dani recognizes and does not let them go unnoticed.

This film in its presentation and storyline is remarkably similar to Roma, a film about an indigenous house cleaner working for a wealthy family in Mexico City who becomes pregnant and constantly teeters the line between being an employee and part of the family. Guie’Dani’s Navel shares many attributes with Roma but goes farther to address classism, racism, and a coming-of-age story.

Sótera Cruz, who plays Guie’Dani, does a phenomenal job presenting a girl unaverred by the superiority from oppressors all while demonstrating a typical 12-year-old. Cruz has many scenes where she is standing still and void of expression or noise. This technique used by the film’s director Sala, prompts viewers to think about Guie’Dani’s inner thoughts and she wanted actions that she cannot fully carry out. Viewers watch Guie’Dani eat a meal with a quiet conversation of the landlords in the back while nothing extraordinary is happening. This makes the film seem dull at times but presents the mundane days which Guie’Dani’s and her mother Lidia, experience as life. These experiences prompt Guie’Dani to rebel and outwardly show the property owners what she thinks of them.

Guie’Dani lacks the ability to settle or become accustomed to the microaggressions delivered by her landlords dissimilar to her mother. Lidia can justify these subjugations with the constant food, roof, and other life necessities being benign filled. After a series of events, Guie’Dani is left in the home by herself and decides to live in it and show it the respect she has been shown by her landlords. In a conversation in the front yard with her neighbor friend, Guie’Dani describes her village and that she wants to leave Mexico City and return to her buried navel in her village, giving the film its name. This moment is powerful for viewers as it becomes obvious Guie’Dani is not impressed by the robotic vacuum or the modern world, showing that what might be considered more efficient or better is the narrative for all. This has a larger connection to the way indigenous cultures are often seen and the push that society has put on them to modernize.

The work by Sala is impressive in its visual display, cast of characters, and script. The film lacks a constant stream of conversation and narration, but the message of the film is not lost. The actors display the emotions of their characters in their presence on the screen through expressions, or in the case of Guie’Dani, her lack of an expression to convey loathing due to her current situation. The plot lacks a typical Hollywood action packed form of entertainment but provokes a larger understanding of how indigenous cultures are treated in our contemporary world the implications of these actions.

Guie’Dani’s Navel is an impressive story that follows a young girl resisting the domination of oppressors while addressing topics of classism and racism. The film additionally uses silence and to communicate with viewers the silence that many indigo cultures are subjected to by a modern society. This film tells a particularly important narrative worth learning.

Emily Gerencer ’23


The 5th Gustavus Latinx Film Festival is made possible thanks to a PRAGDA Spanish Film Club Grant awarded by Spain’s Ministry of Culture. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures; and the Latin American, Latinx and Caribbean Studies Program.

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We hope you can join us for the next showing and Q&A, Ema


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