study guide






from EL MOVIMIENTO represent some of the film's main themes: the gaze and presence of the camera and of the filmmaker in the relationship between shaman and anthropologist; the issues brought by the varied patients who come before Don Chabo's altar to be cured; the few who try to hire him to harm others; the young woman who had been kidnapped and who then needed to be exorcised; patients who need blessings before their trips over the border to find work in the US; and the moving last statement by Bill Hanks about the passing of Don Chabo and the continuation of his teachings.


Scene 1 introduces the collaborators (shaman, anthropologist, filmmaker), then the town of Oxkutzcab, then the shaman’s house, land, and altar. In the last part of Scene 1, the anthropologist, Bill Hanks (BH), teaches the shaman, Don Chabo (DC) how to look through a movie camera and what it sees:

Close-up of Bill Hanks’ face lit by a flashlight inside Don Chabo’s house. Hanks speaks directly into the camera which is held by Don Chabo.

BH: This is what I want you to see. For example, look at my eyes. I’m looking right into your eyes. See?

DC: Yeah.

BH: You see the difference if I look here, or there? Looks off screen. Now I’m not looking at you, but at the guy next to you. Now here comes my gaze right at you again, see? I’m showing you this so you will understand the effect of gaze on the camera. Because if I look right at you like this, it’s as if I’m talking to you. If you’re watching the film you’ll think, "He’s talking to me." But if my eyes wander around, you’ll feel like you’re watching something you’re not a part of. But if I talk right at you like this, this is how it looks.

DC: OK, then you’re talking with me again.

BH: Right!

DC: Hey! I see a little guy in here! Could the little guy be you?

BH: Yep, it’s he’s still me. Do you see that it’s me?

DC: Yes, I see you.BH: Listen, even I didn’t know this stuff until recently,when Peter told me. He says, "If you’re being filmed, look into the lens." When he told me why, I saw it was true. Peter asked me to explain it even if I make mistakes.

DC: Yeah. I understand.

BH: It’s more about seeing than understanding DC: I’m looking at it, and that makes me understand it. Now everything is clear.



Scene 2 embodies the ambiguities inherent in the film. Don Chabo maintains that he only cures, unlike a sorcerer. The following brief encounter between a woman (W) and Don Chabo (DC) places his stance into an ambivalent perspective (note the sentences in bold).

Don Chabo appears at the altar, arranges the chair, throws away his cigarette.. A woman suddenly appears at his side:, and whispers: :

W: I just want to talk. Woman shows her leg and points to her right eye with finger. This is what she did to me. She did me like this. She mimes a strike to leg. And she hit me with dirt here, right here. Points to her eye. Right at my side, like this, she mocked me.

DC: Did she strike you?

W: No.

DC: A lady?

W: Yes. My neighbor.

DC: What did she hit you with?

W: Her hand.

DC: Can't you take it?

W: What?

DC: Because it's really expensive.

W: How much?

DC: It's a waste. What do you want to do to her?

W: I just want to make her suffer like I suffered. Make her body hurt.

DC: Shakes head. No. Here, evil is not done. It's not possible.

Go where it can be done. All right?

W: Yeah.

DC: Where are you from?

W: Mani.

DC: Go there where it can be done. This job can be done for you. Here, we don't do that. Here, we cure. Only cure.

W: Yeah, right.

DC: Looks at camera. Continue on your way. Here, it's impossible. Because that thing is really expensive.

W: Yeah, as it should be.

DC: So, is that it?

W: Yeah, that's all.

DC: OK. Looks at camera. You're free.

W: Well, I'm out of here.

Woman and her daughter leave the altar and exit the hut by the front door. An old man then enters, greet Don Chabo and the filmmaker, complains of great pain and asks Don Chabo to bless him. Don Chabo then performs a ritual blessing. Afterwards, he confesses that he is unable to cure the man’s incurable illness. They both mourn. The man then leaves.



Scene 3 represents, to our knowledge, the only exorcism by a Maya shaman ever filmed. This exorcism also undoes the work of a Maya sorcerer.

Don Chabo gives the the filmmaker, Peter Thompson, permission to enter the altar room to film the exorcism. Don Chabo then performs the exorcism on a young woman in great distress who weeps and shivers during the treatment. Afterwards, Don Chabo gives her mother and grandmother medecine for her and the family then carries her out into the night. In the complete scene within the film, Don Chabo (DC) then discusses her case with Bill Hanks (BH) and explains why the exorcism was necessary.

BH: What happened to her?

DC: She got struck by evil. Real malevolence.

BH: Done by another shaman?

DC: Yup. Another shaman. That girl was stolen, lured away.

Asks Margotte in the next room. How many days was she gone?

MAR: Fifteen days.

DC: Fifteen days she was under a spell.

MAR: And her family got word that she had been kidnapped.

DC: Yeah, and then they went to get her.

BH: Who? Her family?

DC: Yeah. It's a good thing they did. If they hadn't, it would’ve been all over with that guy constantly working on her. She would’ve been stolen again.

BH: But you didn’t finish the exorcism, did you?

DC: No. You’re right, I didn’t.

BH: Why not?

DC: Because it was jerking me, shaking me. Shocking me. Just like when you touch an electric wire–zap, zap, it shoots through you.

I could feel it right here. For the exorcism, I’ve gotten old. I can’t sustain it any more.

BH: When you do an exorcism like this one, is there anything you have to do to protect yourself afterwards?

DC: Silently crosses himself and raises both arms to the heavens. Just like that. The lady asked me, "Tell me, Don Chabo, tell me." She wanted to know just what had happened. But I didn’t tell ‘cause it only causes trouble. We would get brought before the authorities and the next thing you know, we’d be in jail. The good guys or just the sorcerers? No, curers, too--like you and me.



Scene 4 embodies strains in the relationship between filmmaker and anthropologist. They then leave Don Chabo’s house and go to a tourist hotel to rest from filmmaking and then see a "Sound & Light" show in Mayan ruins. The show idealizes Mayan life, and beautifully counterpoints the reality of the film. Thompson and Hanks then return in a blinding storm to Don Chabo’s house where they find the exorcism patient (in Scene 3) who has returned for a follow-up treatment before crossing into North America to work as a migrant laborer.



Scene 5 is the culmination of scenes in which Don Chabo and Bill Hanks come to an explicit understanding and resolution about the fact that Bill knows everything about Don Chabo’s shamanic practices intellectually but has not yet received the gift of healing and therefore cannot carry on Don Chabo’s active healing practice.

Bill, with dark glasses, walks through thick jungle.

BH: After Don Chabo’s death I return to Oxkuzcab. I want to visit his house. When I get there, it’s overgrown and abandoned. The land and everything on it has been sold but the new owner is afraid to set foot on it because of all the spirits.

Inside Don Chabo’s abandoned house..

The house is unlocked, so I walk in and find the altar, covered with cobwebs, untouched since that day when Don Chabo was brought to the hospital, two years earlier. I wrap up the santos and bring them to Manuel in Merida–surely his oldest son wants them. When I get there, he tells me, "No, you keep them. You’re Poppa’s heir, and he wanted you to have them." So I wrap them in white cloth for the long trip home.

Clouds shot from a plane. Then we slowly explore Don Chabo’s altar in Hanks’ Chicago home.

The only things Don Chabo took with him to the hospital were the crystals and his own cross. Margotte, Manuel and the rest of the family had cared for him as best they could, but there was no cure for his worn-out body. No more incurable old men would come to his altar, or women looking for sorcery, or victims of sorcery in need of exorcism. No more babies to cool down or people to bless before they head north as migrant laborers in the US. Holding his crucifix and crystals, and all the years of prayers recorded in them, Don Chabo made his crossing. Before he died, he stitched the shawl for the cross and tied the note to it: "Will, t’inkaatik tech le cruz yetel le sastuun. Tech t’in curazon. Ten t’a curazon." "Will, I want you to have the cross and crystals. You are in my heart. I am in your heart." The hand was shaky but the words were clear. That was the cross at the right, the one that Don Chabo cut from the tree about sixty years ago. The one on the left is mine. He and I cut it from a tree about twenty years ago. Margotte made the white altarcloth to wrap it in. The crystals came to Don Chabo one by one over his lifetime. He held them every day and prayed for light and every day they gave it. That was his calling, and he lived it in Ozkutzcab. Now his cross and mine are side by side in Chicago, and my hands hold the crystals. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand their signs, or if they did point the way whether I could follow. Maybe Don Chabo was right when he said that we don’t have a path, just a few brief clearings in the woods. The rest of the time we’re lost and looking for things that can’t be seen. Maybe that’s what’s been so hard for Peter to film, too, and for me to translate. So hard that it took us ten years and strained our friendship. But the will is still strong. The family lives on in Merida. The boys are young men. Their sister is a mother. Margotte and Manuel struggle to make ends meet. There will be trips north for migrant work and trips south for reunions. We will visit the grave where we buried their father. We will carry his song, and the life within it.

Cut to black. His song begins. Credits.


Copyright © 1999 by William F. Hanks and Peter Thompson All rights reserved. Printed in the USA.