The Tree of Life

Directed by Bruce “Pacho” Lane
(29 minutes)

The Tree Of Life grows
In the Land of Mystery:
There we were created;
There we were born.
There He by whom all things live
Spins the thread of our lives.
The day is dawning;
The sun is rising.
Soon descending
The red birds will come
To suck the nectar of living flowers.
On earth at the sacred tree you stand:
You, feathered serpent, you are Lord!

“Nezahualcoyotl Tlatoani of Texcoco
circa 1430 CE”

“Los Voladores” (the Flyers) is a 1500 year-old rite sacred to Quetzalcoatl, the Morning Star. From its origins on the Gulf coast of Mexico, the ritual spread throughout Mesoamerica: a special square was reserved for it in Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, and a variant is still known among the Quiche’ Maya in Guatemala.

Today “Los Voladores” is best known in its original home in the Huasteca region, especially among the Totonac, who have lived in the area for millenia. The version shown in the film is from Huehuetla, in the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

The film opens with images from the Nuttall, Laud, and other Codices, and poetry from “Cantares Mexicanos”, a collection of pre-hispanic Nahuatl verse from Texcoco.


At the home of one of the Voladores, we watch the preparation of the characteristic seven-branched wax candles, crowned with a representation of the Volador pole (a mayordomia obligation, part of the cargo system). Intercut with the candle-making, children learn the ritual of the Voladores by re-enacting it from start to finish. In the forest, the Voladores bless the tree chosen for the rite. The tree is felled and dragged by 300 Totonacs along mule trails into the village, where it is wrapped with vines and raised entirely by hand to its new place in the churchyard. Preparations are completed as the Voladores bring the hub, the sacred symbol of dynamic change (Olin), from its place at their home altar, set it on the tip of the pole, and thread the ropes which will bear them on their flight carefully through the hub and around the pole.

Dressed in costumes drawn from 18th-century European models, the Voladores join the statue of San Salvador, the Risen Savior, in the fiesta procession. As the capitan of the Voladores dances on the narrow bub, high above the flagstones, other dance groups perform: Huehues, Quetzales, San Migueles, and Negritos. Then the Voladores descend head down, arms spread, in a slow spiral, to the sound of drum and flute…

Combining ritual, dance, music, poetry, and art, “THE TREE OF LIFE” is a meditation on the mystery at the heart of human life. It calls us to keep the world in balance with our lives.


You have become the Tree of Life.
Dying, you have been born again.
Swaying, you spread your branches
And stand before the Giver of all life.
In your boughs our home shall be:
We will be your flowers.

“Cantares Mexicanos”

Awards: First Prize, Festival of Films on Native Americans (Mexico); First Prize, International Festival on Culture & Psychiatry; First Prize, The American Film Festival; Berlin & London Film Festivals, Musee de l’Homme, Smithsonian, Corcoran, MOMA, Museo Nacional de Antropologia.

TV: US (PBS), Germany (ZDF), Japan (NHK), Sweden, Spain, and Mexico


Order the DVD

The “Tree of Life” DVD includes “The Tree of Knowledge” & “Democracia Indígena”,
playable on Region 1 (US & Canada) & Multiregion DVD players.

Also available in Spanish on Region 4 DVD on request.

ISBN #: 978-1-891813-00-9
UPC: 736899374631


English Narration Text for “The Tree of Life”

Spanish Narration Text for “The Tree of Life”

The making of “The Tree of Life”