Yakona (NR)

Documentary 85 min.
By Ernest Hardy
Reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi in both form and content, Anlo Sepulveda and Paul Collins's experimental documentary Yakona tells the story of the San Marcos River — or, rather, lets the river share its own origin tale and life story. Opening on a dark sky that grows increasingly bright with the multiplying stars and swirling gases, all suggesting the birth of the universe and the Earth itself, the film carries viewers on a current of dazzling images as its tone transitions from idyllic to foreboding to cautiously optimistic.

We spend a lot of time underwater, immersed in the river and the lives it hosts — schools of fish; a turtle that climbs onto shore to lay her eggs, then returns to the water; the countless forms of plant life. But we also are privy to the sacred relationship between the San Marcos and the Native Americans living near it. Colonization and capitalism darkly twist the narrative, bringing brutality to both the Native folk and the river, which becomes murky and sick as it moves into the present, with flickers of hope at the end. Told without dialogue and broken into chapters ("Yanaguna: sacred water"; "A'x peteku't: turbulent water"), Yakona, which means "rising water," uses Native American chants, music and vague whispers on the soundtrack to deepen both the tale and the filmgoing experience. Unapologetic in its activist bent, the film is just as relentless in its beauty.
Paul Collins, Anlo Sepulveda


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