TÓTEM World Cinema


Mexico’s Oscar® submission for Best International Feature

Following her humanist drama, THE CHAMBERMAID (AFI FEST 2018), Lila Avilés’ sophomore feature unfurls in a single chaotic day. Filtered through the perspective of an observant seven-year-old protagonist Sol (sensitively portrayed by newcomer Naíma Sentíes), TÓTEM follows an extended family busily preparing for the birthday party of its young patriarch and Sol’s father, Tonatiuh. Drifting around the lived-in family home brimming with memories, Sol witnesses the disarray of adults and cousins shuffling about and busying themselves, seemingly concealing the unspoken absence of her father, who is frailly tucked away in his bedroom. As night falls, candles are blown and wishes are murmured into thin air, Sol must learn to prepare for the kind of loss seven-year-olds shouldn’t have to contend with. Framed by intimate handheld camerawork and warm hues, Avilés sidesteps indulgent sentimentality in favor of the quietly mundane, weaving a family tapestry marked not by grief and heartbreak, but by love and tenderness. –Anna Li

Lila Avilés is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, actress and producer. She made her feature debut with THE CHAMBERMAID, which premiered at the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival and played at AFI FEST 2018. The film was also chosen as Mexico’s official entry for Best International Feature for the 92nd Academy Awards®.

Brian Belovarac
Janus Films


Country: Mexico, Denmark, France

Year: 2023

Director: Lila Avilés

Screenwriter: Lila Avilés

Producers: Tatiana Graullera, Lila Avilés, Louise Riousse

Director of Photography: Diego Tenorio

Editor: Omar Guzmán

Production Designer: Nohemi González Martínez

Costume Designers: Nora Solís, Jimena Fernández

Music: Thomas Becka

Cast/Featuring: Naíma Sentíes, Montserrat Marañon, Marisol Gasé, Saori Gurza, Mateo García Elizondo, Teresita Sánchez, Juan Francisco Maldonado, Iazua Larios, Alberto Amador

Running Time (minutes): 95

Language: Spanish