The ancient Maya believed this present world would end and a new cycle arise after 5125 years.

How does the story end? Does the water change color? Do the oceans collapse? Does the sky fall as the last tree is cut?

HEART OF SKY, HEART OF EARTH allows the Maya of today to answer, following six young Maya in Guatemala and Chiapas through their daily and ceremonial life. They put forth a wholly indigenous perspective in their own words, without narration. Their cosmovision, in which all life is sacred and interconnected, presents a deeply compelling alternative to the prevailing worldview.

As corporations go to the ends of the earth to extract all value, all resources, these Maya reveal their determination to resist the destruction of their culture and environment. They believe they are the guardians of the Earth. Each story touches upon a facet of the current global crisis.

Chan K’in is studying to become possibly the last shaman of the Lacandon Maya, living amongst ruins of an ancient city and what was formerly the largest and most biodiverse rainforest in North America, now reduced to an island of green in a sea of cattle ranches.

The Mayan astro-archaeologist Alonso is obsessed the way his ancestors were obsessed: with time and space. Working among the majestic ruins of Palenque, he draws the parallel between the collapse of the classical Maya, the coming end of the “long count” and our impending ecological collapse.

After the brutal gang rape and murder of her aunt by the army, Flori had to flee the genocide as a little girl in Guatemala where a quarter of a million Maya were assassinated. Now she is returning to her native village, where half of her family was murdered, to organize her people against the Canadian gold mine poisoning their children, their environment and resurrecting the terror.

Felipe became a Guatemalan spiritual guide dedicated to the ceremonies of his Mayan ancestors to save, first himself from drug addiction and then to heal his people and help the survivors of the genocide close the “circle of pain”.

Josefa, in the highlands of Chiapas, is on a crusade to save the most sacred element of the Maya pantheon, the native corn, from Monsanto’s genetically manipulated hybrids. The massive “dumping” of heavily subsidized, imported North American corn means the Maya cannot sell their own corn. Chepita’s family members have become part of the diaspora, a river of nine million forced to migrate North.

Jerónimo, a farmer in a self-administered Mayan community, is a member of a movement of Mayan peasants, the Zapatistas, who declared war on the Mexican state the day the Free Trade (NAFTA) was imposed. “Before we Indigenous were faceless in the eyes of the powerful. Only when we cover our faces can they see us.”

HEART OF SKY, HEART OF EARTH combines the intimate accounts and the political presence of the Maya using exquisite imagery, music and dreamlike sequences. The film bridges the gap between the ancient Mayan creation myth, the Popol Vuh and the crises of today, from the haunting ruins of a fallen civilization to the ceremonies of today’s Maya, from their spirituality to their spirit of resistance.

Where the west has focused on the end of the world, they understand their calendar not as an inevitable prophecy, but as the closing of a circle, as a way to a new beginning. A moving and haunting film with a deep respect for the Indigenous. Their call is not just for control over their own lives. It is a last call to save the Earth.

With Josefa Kirvin Kulix, Floridalma Pérez Gonzalez, Carlos Chan K’in Chanuk, Kajkan Felipe Mejía Sepet, Alonso Mendez, Don Antonio Martinez, Gregoria Crisanta Pérez, Maudilia Lopez Cardona, Comandante David, Jerónimo.

Written and directed by Frauke Sandig & Eric Black, Camera: Black, Directors’ Assistant: Florina Mendoza, Editor: Grete Jentzen, Additional Scenes: Silke Botsch, Line Producer: Brigit Mulders, Sound Design: Dirk Jacob, Soundmix: Martin Grube, Music: Arturo Pantaleón, Götz Naleppa, Zoe Keating, Sak Tzevul, José Luis Vaca “Chelo”, Grading & Post Production: Matthias Behrens, wave-line, Commissioning Editor: Nicole Baum.

An Umbrella Films Production with ZDF/3SAT, funded by FFA, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, ITVS, EED and EZEF, Copyright: Eric Black & Frauke Sandig Umbrella Films, German Distributor: Piffl Medien GmbH

HDCAM, 98 minutes