Directed by Bruce “Pacho” Lane
Set in Huehuetla, Puebla, a Totonac Indian community in East Central Mexico, The Tree of Knowledge contrasts two systems of education. The public school system uses patriotic symbols to “integrate” Indian pupils into the national culture while teaching them to reject their own identity. In contrast, the Danza de los Huehues urges young Totonacs to learn from the mestizos (“whites”), yet warns them not to abandon their own culture.
“Throughout the film we see the divided nature of the town: a close-up of a caged dove—the Indian locked into a Spanish world. The remarks of the school principal (of course a mestizo): ‘Our main interest is that the children learn Spanish . . . If we speak to a sixth grade pupil in Totonac, he is insulted. He says, ‘I speak Spanish now. Why do you talk to me in Totonac?’ . . . Lane’s approach is indirect and symbolic; he avoids interpretive narration in favor of allowing visual and spoken symbolism to carry the message . . . Lane has made a useful contribution both to peasant studies and to the methodology of ethnographic film as well.”
—Dr. Michael Logan, The American Anthropologist, 1984.
But there is also a deeper, older level to the ritual: it is not the mestizos, but the living spirits of trees, who are the real spirits of the Danza, and who teach the Totonacs how to live in harmony with nature. That is where the Dance began…
The “Tree of Knowledge” DVD includes “The Tree of Life” & “Democracia Indígena,”
playable on Region 1 (US & Canada) & Multiregion DVD players.
VHS available on request.
Also available in Spanish on Region 4 DVD by request.
Guillermina: Glimpses of a Life of Love Unrequited (English)
Guillermina: Retazos de una Vida de Amor Mal Pagada (Spanish)
An oral history of the bilingual mestiza woman, now in her 80’s, who was both interpreter
and informant for “The Tree of Life” and “The Tree of Knowledge”