La Llorona – The general in his labyrinth

Jayro Bustamente uses cinema de genre’s code to enlight his countrie’s tourments, Guatemala, in search of justice. Strange…

By Perrine Quennesson
Translated by : Laetitia Guidicelli

Reading Time 4 min

La lorona


With his sharp and stylized camera, Jayro Bustamente continue to picture the oppressed in Guatemala. After the indigenous population in Ixcanul and the homosexuals in Tremblements, La Llorona focuses in guerillas who opposed the Guatemalan government between 1960 and 1996, leading to a civil war that killed more than 100,000 people and where tens of thousands of people went missing and 1 million were displaced. More specifically, the film focuses on the genocide that occured in the early 1980s and led to the massacre of the Maya-Ixiles people.

In 2013, after a dificult trial, General Efraín Ríos Montt, president from 1982 to 1983, was convicted for genocide and crimes against humanity. But only two weeks later ; the sentenced was anuled por technical defect. This is where La Llorona starts. After some startling scenes in court, we are locked up with the ruthless general, Enrique Monteverde and his family in the immense family home. Outside, the people surrounds the house, scold and throw stones. Cries, plaintive screams are heard at night. Nightmares haunt women in the household – the wife, the daughter and the little girl – whereas employees, all natives, leave the ship. Everything intensifies when Alma, a young employee, also of Maya’s origin, arrives to help (a device that is reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma)d’Alfonzo Cuarón).

By taking back the Latin American legend of la “Llorona” (the mourner), a woman’s soul in pain after losing her children, Jayro Bustamente plunges us into this little known unresolved conflict. By choosing the emotional angle at the expense of history, he seeks to make us feel the anguish, the anger and the distress of a bruised people in search of justice. Aware, the filmmaker also does not forget to open his film to the question of women’s place in this piece of History, sometimes accomplices, often victims, but constantly forgotten.

Moving picture of an elite that hides the face of horror that she inflicts.

Flirt with horror

With her long straight black hair, her dark and relentless gaze, the intruder Alma carries a ghost film aura, worthy of the Japanese, The Grudge and Ring. When she enters the house, she tilts La Llorona towards the fantastic that he had been eyeing from the start with a fluid but destabilizing mise en scène. At the beginning, a claustrophobic closed-door takes the spectator alongside the monster in his cage. Thus, picturing the face of horror inflicted by an elite, voluntarily, by pride or by omission. As a result, the residence becomes a mental space where torments, terrors and epiphanies intersect in beautiful. The residence, thus, becomes a mental space where torments, terrors and epiphanies intersect in a beautiful and glaucous ballet.

While the subject is real and the acts abominable, the film constantly flirts with horror with his worked and subtle image and use of cinema de genre, from zombie to ghost. Its suffocating aqueous atmosphere and its oppressive and overwhelming work on sound, makes La Llorona a unique and impactful film.


  • Jayro Bustamente

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