To Put Away the Gods


The Lacandon Maya Indians live in the rain forest of Chiapas, Mexico, where they survive by combining both traditional and non-traditional ways. The central character of the film is Old Chan K’in who continues to work his slash-burn fields, worship his own Gods while at the same time he travels by truck and takes advantage of modern medicine.

His sons appear more interested in the ways of outsiders and the old men of their community believe that once they are dead that the young will put away their Gods for the last time.

This is not another ethnographic documentary bemoaning the passing of a traditional society. It is a film that expresses the humility and patience with which the Lacandon face the intrusions of lumber companies, technology and, in general, the unforgiving pace of an encroaching modern world. The ease with which Old Chan K’in absorbs the modern narrative into his own traditional story makes him an early post-modern human being.

Behind the scenes:

“I remember during a long walk filming the anthropologist chatting with Old Chan K’in; at one point he asks the Old man, ‘What did the gods tell you in the old days?’ Old Chan K’in responds: ‘Not much.  Don’t worry.  Drink beer. Don’t get angry.’” –B.H.

Production details:
90 mins. Documentary. Super 8 MM film transferred to video tape.
Produced with a grant from the Texas Committee for the Humanities
Screenings: Royal Anthropological Institute, London; Nordic Anthropological Film Fest, Norway; Televised on PBS.