Noche de Animas. Tzintzuntzan is the culmination of a collaborative project of Metamorfosis Documentation Project (represented by Armando Espinosa Prieto and Craig Johnson) and the Centro Cultural Comunitario “Tzintzuntzan” in Tzintzuntzan to document the celebration of Day of the Dead in this community and to explore the relationships between the living and their dead.
Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a feast day celebrated in indigenous and mestizo communities throughout Latin America. Known as Todos Santos, Fieles Difuntos (All Souls), the celebrations have deep roots in pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures and in pagan and Catholic rituals. Each country, region and ethnicity has developed different ways of honoring their ancestors, always based on the same principles of responsibility and reciprocity that honor the role of the dead in the life of their families and communities.
The documentary investigates, as told through the voices of members of the community, how this agricultural ritual to celebrate the dead – the preparations for the celebration, the altars, and the sharing with the dead – strengthens ties of family, spiritual kinship and community.
Specifically highlighted in the film is the cultural legacy of the ancient P’urhepechas. In the celebration of Noche de Animas, family and community are regenerated in a ritual of cultural unity that features the generous sharing of abundance, evoking a feeling of belonging and well-being.
Metamorfosis Documentation Project
Metamorfosis Documentation Project (MDP) is a local nonprofit organization based on a belief in the richness and importance of cultural traditions, focusing on cross cultural rituals and dances in the Americas.
Through projects with mestizo and indigenous communities, MDP, in collaboration with their community museums, documents and supports rituals and dances in their own cultural settings and shares them with a wider audience, fostering an understanding of distinct cultures.
These collaborative projects typically involve three phases: 1) the documenting of the tradition through filming and interviews, resulting in a documentary film, with rights to reproduction and sale of the film being gifted to the Community Museum; 2) a related project sponsored by MDP in direct support to the community; and 3) public presentation of the results of the project including documentary film screenings, submissions to film festivals, lectures, photographic exhibitions, web presentations, and related art works that offer opportunities for wider audiences to experience an inside look at cultures and community rituals markedly different from their own.
Executive Director Armando Espinosa says the mission of MDP is “to help to protect, preserve and promote traditional cultures in the Americas.”
MDP began working with indigenous communities in the late 1990’s, collaborating on a small scale project with a small Rarámuri (Tarahumara) community in Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico to document their Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebration.
Beginning in 2007, MDP has completed collaborations on four large-scale documentary project
The Day of the Dead Tzintzuntzan Project, MDP’s current project, involved a collaboration with the Centro Cultural Comunitario “Tzintzuntzan” (Tzintzuntzan Community Cultural Center) to document the traditional celebration of Noche de Animas in the P’urhépecha community of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán.
The first phase of this Project again included MDP’s apprentice program, with two apprentices chosen by the local Tzintzuntzan Preparatory School who participated in the filming and interviewing of community members. In an additional collaboration in this phase, with support from New Mexico Film Resource, the Santa Fe Community College Film Department sent two students to work with MDP as apprentices during the filming of the actual Day of the Dead celebrations. This phase culminated in the production of the documentary, Noche de Animas. Tzintzuntzan.
In the community support portion of this Project, MDP and the Centro Cultural Comunitario “Tzintzuntzan” collaborated to offer a workshop, “Techniques of Filming and Editing Cultural Documentaries”, to nine members of the community in an effort to stimulate and prepare members of the community to document their own cultural traditions. Workshop participants filmed and produced three short documentaries focused on different cultural traditions of the community, which were then screened for the community.
MDP is now in the third phase of this Project, and is presenting Noche de Animas. Tzintzuntzan in museums and universities in Mexico and the United States.