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Mayan actors under the spotlight in Netflix film ‘Tragic Jungle’

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
First time actor, Mariano Tun Xool as Jacinto in “Tragic Jungle.” Photo: Netflix

Mayan actors and stories shine in “Selva Trágica,” or “Tragic Jungle,” a feature film recently released on Netflix.

Set 100 years ago, the film takes place on the Yucatán Peninsula near the border of what today is Belize. 

The actors of Mayan origin, Mariano and Antonio Tun Xool, were chosen to play the roles of Jacinto and Hilario, two gum workers who cross paths with Agnes, a mysterious young Belizean woman.

The two actors from Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, had never acted before but have expensive knowledge of the region’s dense jungle which they shared with, Yulene Olaizola — the film’s director.

Much of the dialogue is in Spanish and English but also features several scenes in the Yucatec-Mayan language.  

The Mexican, French and Colombian production has garnered mostly favorable reviews, although some viewers and critics have described it as a little slow at times. 

Earlier: Film crew from China documents the secrets of traditional Yucatecan cuisine

“What Olaizola does best is create an atmosphere of almost mystical uncertainty at times, setting her film in a place where the frontiers between countries, cultures, reality, folklore, past and present are in constant flux,” says Jordan Mintzer of the Hollywood Reporter. 

The film takes on traditional myths such as the story of the Xtabay, a legendary being that lurks in the heart of the jungle, and themes of gender dynamics and forced marriages. 

“Tragic Jungle” is streaming on Netflix and showing in select movie theaters in Mexico and the United States.

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