A cult film from the 1970s, lost for years and now newly restored, "Chac: The Rain God" is based on ritual and legends from the Popul Vuh. This gorgeous film, shot in the Chiapas region of Mexico by Chilean director Roland... more »o Klein, focuses on a small Tzeltal village during a terrible drought. Desperate for relief, thirteen men set out on a quest to save their people from starvation with a Diviner who takes them far from their own land on a strange journey. "Chac" is magical, mystical and intensely visual. A dazzling portrait of a Native American spiritual quest, "Chac" is a visionary masterpiece as powerful and revolutionary as "Walkabout," "El Topo" and "Aguirre: The Wrath of God."« less
James F. Drew | Charlotte, NC United States | 06/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chac: The Rain God is one of those very rare DVD's that offers a unique film with an even better audio commentary. I did not give this my highest rating because the film is slow and would not entertain everyone. It is very dry and subtitles are a turnoff to most (I'm used to them because I watch a fair number of foreign films). Not all that is spoken is translated, which I found a little annoying. I would like to have known more of what the Diviner was saying.The film itself is a mix of documentary and a somewhat slow, but satisfying story. The characters are all well-drawn and it is a true Journey film where we enter two worlds - the world of the villagers and the world they enter as they are led by the Diviner to prepare for the rain ceremony.The commentary, though, was a tremendous surprise. I buy few DVDs that don't have commentaries, but most are pablum compared to this. Robort Klein is humble, informative, reflective and gives great insight, not just about the film process in working with non-actors, but also about the Mayan world. I am an avid Mayan reader and want to do my own film on the Maya, and this film was fulfilling on all counts. It is sad, also, from his view two decades later, to learn what happened to these people. The commentary is actually better than the movie and a movie about the making of this movie and what happens later would be at least as satisfying. NOTE: You do not have to be a Mayan enthusiast to enjoy this film. All you have to be is someone who cares about the loss of richness created by the encroachment by Modern society on other cultures.This film will leave you thinking for a long time afterwards. And that is good."
Superior filmmaking in a remote land
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 12/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chilean filmmaker Rolando Klein traveled to southern Mexico--the Chiapas region--to film Chac the Rain God in 1974. Chiapas is next to Guatemala, yet the language spoken in the film is not Spanish but a Native American dialect indigenous to that region. Because of the simplicity of the story, it's impossible to tell when this actually takes place. We do know that it must be at least the 19th century because the cacique, the tribe chief, has a rifle that resembles one from around that period seen in American Westerns, among other venues.
But aside from the rifle, this could be set as much as a thousand years ago. Villagers in a small tribal settlement are afraid of losing their crops because of no rain. They consult their shaman but all he wants to do is get drunk. In desperation the cacique and the men of the tribe consult the tribal elders and they tell of a diviner who lives alone high up in the mountains, who can bring rain to the village.
The mens' voyage to the diviner results in a much longer voyage he takes them on--through roaring waters and lush jungle, and finally into a deep cave where a critical element for the diviner's ritual to bring rain is found. But the cacique is not happy; he is sure the diviner is really a witch who is mad and temporarily convinces two men of the group of 12 who have traveled to turn back. In doing so, the cacique falls upon a bizarre noctural experience--whether dream or reality, who can say?
Shot through with this kind of magic realist, or surrealist imagery, Chac is a film that pulls the viewer in as surely as smoke arises from fire. The primary emphasis in the film is on the elements--fire, water, earth, sky--because that is what and how the characters in the story know, and live, and function. Those who are used to slam bang one-action-a-second American cinema would do well to steer clear of this film. But for anyone needing a cinematic experience in which a main character is the land itself, Chac is a great film to immerse yourself in. The beauty of the jungle, the open blue sky meeting the lush earth, the great night fire that's set ablaze to perform the rain-making ritual, the roaring waters--all these move us. These and the diviner.
The diviner's the primary human element who commands our attention; he moves the film forward and, even closer to the four elements--in mystical ways--than the villagers themselves, he gives the film its intriguing power; the villagers are in awe of him for what he can do, and the viewer will be too, I believe.
Ceremony and Ritual...ripples upon the water of life
Libby | Santa Fe, NM USA | 10/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film reflected how separated we have become from nature. We no longer hear the voices of our ancestral lineage. We have become dead in a world that pulsates, speaks and interacts with us each and every moment. In this film we see how ceremony and ritual helps to bridge that gap and bring us closer to our world. If you get an opportunity watch Rolando Klein's 1974 documentary "Chac: The Rain God", a film about the Tzeltal Indians of Chiapas (South America)living in the remnants of the ancient Mayan Empire. During the ceremony, the shaman uses sound, which mirror Kototama child sounds..., to call upon nature's elements. The beauty of this film is how it embraces the purity of being connected to one's world through ceremony. Each action is of ceremony and ritual...ripples upon the water of life. Hidden is not always hidden, sometimes it is just not seen because we fail to look. This film mirrors both man's faithful interaction with the divine nature of life, and his skeptic beliefs which tear him from the fabric of life."
A Mesmerizing Journey Into Another Culture
Gail Anderson | Cleveland Hts, OH USA | 07/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Chac" was filmed in the seventies using native Mayans as actors. In his only film, director Rolando Klein lived with the Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico and recruited them as actors. When he was done he feared he had changed their lives and their culture forever. The movie is done in a spare, ethnographic style without flashy Hollywood sound or special effects. The result is to draw you into another world and by the time the Diviner goes into a trance and calls the Chacs, in order to bring rain, you are a believer in his power. You also witness the disintergration of the village leader when he loses his faith and believes his power is being usurped by an unscrupulous Diviner. The shocking ending proves the Diviner true and the faithless headman's destruction is assured. The film, which also relates the story to the Popul Vuh, the Mayan creation myth, is a must have for those interested in the Mayan culture or spiritual quests."
Margaret Dybala | Pearland, Texas United States | 01/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is profoundly well done. The director creates the feeling that you are truly among these descendants of the Mayans who have lost their contact with the ancient ways. In the midst of a drought, they seek a diviner who can ask the rain God Chac to send rain. The problem is that the village chief considers the diviner to be a witch, and possibly he sees his power threatened also. The men of the village are led on a quest to obtain the needed materials for a ceremony -- the ceremony takes place -- and then we see the denouement in which (I don't think this is a spoiler) possibly all links to the past are destroyed through foolish behavior. The actors were apparently locals, but they were truly outstanding. The man who played the diviner did a fine job. Actually, the entire film must be seen to be believed. I shudder to think that this movie sat in a closet (one copy left only) for 25 years. How many other works of genius have we lost?"