Global Cinema 18: Belize – Yochi (2017)

The problem with the challenge to watch a film from every country around the world is that there are all too many that basically have next to no film industry or even film production, and Belize is certainly one of those countries with a very short list of films. I might have chosen a Hollywood production set there, like The Mosquito Coast, but this short film popped up on a YouTube search, and it was made in Belize for the country, ostensibly to showcase a problem with poaching native birds.

Belizean flagBelize
population 408,000 | capital Belmopan (14k) | largest cities Belize City (57k), San Ignacio (18k), Belmopan, Orange Walk Town (13.7k), San Pedro Town (12k) | area 22,966 km2 | religion Christianity (74%) | official language English | major ethnicity Mestizo (53%), Creole (26%), Maya (11%) | currency Belize dollar ($) [BZD] | internet .bz

A small Central American country bordering the Caribbean Sea, Mexico and Guatemala, with the lowest population density in the region. The earliest reference to the name is in the late-17th century, in relation to the river, and is possibly derived from the Mayan belix meaning “muddy-watered”. It was one of the areas where the Mayan civilisation first emerged in the 3rd millennium BCE, which continued through to the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century CE, though despite Spanish claims over the territory, it was the British who first settled the country in the 18th century. After repelling Spanish attacks, it was integrated into the British Empire as British Honduras. Self-government was granted in 1964, and the country renamed as Belize in 1973. Full independence was granted on 21 September 1981. The head of state remains the British monarch, with an elected parliament led by a Prime Minister.

Although music and even theatre are part of the cultural life of Belize, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a local film industry, so very few films have been produced there.

Yochi (2017)

This short film has clearly been made with an interest in drawing attention to the illegal trade in exotic birds, specifically the yellow-headed parrot found in Belize. However, it’s also a story — and at 25 minutes it can’t really be more than a fairly simple one — about two indigenous brothers. The younger brother lives at home and doesn’t speak, while his older brother comes to visit from the city, slipping easily between the local Mayan language and English, as he disburses electronic gifts to mother and brother. So there are a few tensions in play — not speaking vs saying too much, city vs nature, the corruption of money (the brother, it turns out, is loaded down with debt) — and the film has resolutions to these, but even if it’s not surprising, it is very nice to see the lush jungles of Belize, its wildlife, and get a sense of life for some communities there. Plus, if like me you’re trying to watch films from countries around the world, there’s not much for Belize.

Yochi film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Ilana Lapid; Cinematographer Robert Dugan; Starring Kerry Johan Landero, Evan Martinez; Length 25 minutes.
Seen at home (YouTube), London, Tuesday 18 August 2020.


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