Directed by Charles Fairbanks and Saul Kak • Documentary • 2017 • 71 minutes
The Modern Jungle is a portrait of globalization filtered through Carmen and Juan, two Zoque people, and how modernity has affected their identity and relation to the indigenous culture. This film documents their struggles and encounters with outside forces: from capitalism and commodity fetish, to the culture of cinema, and the directors of this film. Juan is a Mexican shaman who suffers from a hernia that his incantations cannot treat, and falls under the spell of charlatans who sell him nutritional supplements as medicine. His neighbor, Carmen, lives simply in harmony with the land her martyred husband paid for with his life. Originally set out to make an honest documentary of Zoque culture, directors Charles Fairbanks and Saul Kak fall into a tough position when both Carmen and Juan ask them for money because they are “working” for the film. By hiding nothing of this partly venal relationship, the directors challenge the Western-centered ethnology and cinematic myth of a “pure” native untouched by outside forces.