MIFF Review: I Dream in Another Language (Sueño en Otro Idioma)

Ernesto Contreras’ wholly evocative and intoxicating 4th feature is one of resounding philosophical and historical significance. Built around an acute total of a dying language, yet undeniably metaphorical in its commentary on humanity, globalisation and the sterilisation of communication. I Dream in Another Language proffers the way you view this world can be changed completely by the way you communicate in it and to lose languages to history is to lose beauty itself.

When linguist researcher Martín (Fernando Álvarez Rebeil), travels deep into the jungle to document the last remaining remnants of the Zikril language, he finds that the only two people that speak the tongue haven’t conversed in over half a century. Isauro (José Manuel Poncelis) and Evaristo (Eligio Meléndez), we’re the closest of friends way back when only to endure a bitter falling out over love interest María (Nicolasa Ortíz Monasterio).

Through a series of flashbacks we see the younger men vie for María’s attentions and its inevitable conclusion evocatively played out against the once thriving Zikril community. It’s in the separate retelling of these memories that Contreras conveys the vitality and purpose of the language.

Never biting or over bearing, Contreras dresses his modern day frame with lush forest backgrounds, ambient sounds and a stillness that lets this decades old rift take centre stage. Subplots do appear but never truly distract from what’s at the core of this piece – a rumination on the value of language, on the power it contains and the ability to carry, evolve and skew memory.

It easy to see why this film picked up an Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it works on several levels. You can absorb at face value and enjoy unravelling the mystery of an age old feud, or you can bathe in its metaphorical and philosophical core. What value do languages have in modern day society? Would you look differently upon the world if you spoke a different tongue? What are we losing with this rapid globalisation?

A wholly engrossing yet gentile evocation in cinema – I Dream in Another Language does what film festivals are primed to do – transport you to an entirely different world and leave you with so much to think about and admire.