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In a large, chaotic household, preparations are underway for the birthday of a young painter and father, Tona (Mateo García Elizondo), whose terminal illness means that the party may well be his last. In the lead-up to this celebration-cum-farewell, his daughter, seven-year-old Sol (Naíma Sentíes), finds herself caught in an adult world which she struggles to comprehend, among totemic signs she cannot yet read. But as night approaches, she gets a dim but growing sense that her world is about to change irrevocably. Immersing us in a claustrophobic environment literally teeming with life—the presence of animals is a constant throughout—Tótem confirms the talent of rising Mexican director Lila Avilés (The Chambermaid). Filming in the narrow 4:3 aspect ratio, and employing fluid, mobile camerawork, Avilés maintains a tricky balance of perspectives, observing the adult characters with wry, ironic detachment, while giving genuine weight to Sol’s psychological turmoil. Layered with political and emotional resonance, the result is truly one-of-a-kind: a Buñuelian class study keyed to the interior life of a child.


Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Berlin 2023; Best Director, Beijing 2023


Tótem is a film of unexpected beauty…
Slant Magazine


Naíma Sentíes, Montserrat Marañon, Marisol Gasé, Saori Gurza, Mateo García Elizondo

Country of Origin







In Spanish with English subtitles

Film Contact
95 min
Drama Women Directors

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Tatiana Graullera, Lila Avilés, Louise Riousse


Lila Avilés


Diego Tenorio


Omar Guzmán

Production Design

Nohemi González Martínez

Original Music

Thomas Becka


Lila Avilés headshot

Lila Avilés

Lila Avilés is a Mexican independent film director, screenwriter and producer. She founded her production company, Limerencia Films in 2018. Her debut feature film The Chambermaid (2018) represented Mexico at the 2020 Oscars© and Goya Awards. The film was invited to more than 60 festivals around the world achieving a large number of international and national awards, plus a strong reception from critics.

Filmography: The Chambermaid (2018)

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