TOTEM – Director Lila Avilés

In the enormously poignant follow-up to her international breakthrough, The Chambermaid, director Lila Avilés nestles in with one family over the course of a single, meaningful day. TOTEM is told largely from the perspective of 7-year-old Sol (the marvelously naturalistic Naíma Sentíes), as her mother (Montserrat Marañón) and extended relatives prepare for the birthday party of the girl’s father, Tona (Mateo Garcia). As the hours wear on, building to an event both anticipated and dreaded, the fragile bonds and unsure future of the family become ever clearer. Avilés confirms her  formidable skill at expressing the subtlest contours of her characters’ inner lives in this emotionally expansive and affecting drama. This emotionally expansive film from Lila Aviles (The Chambermaid) cements her skill at directing dynamic, ensemble performances in her stunning sophomore effort. Director, producer , writer Lila Avilés joins us to talk about casting Naíma Sentíes (Sol) and the rest of this superb troupe of performers, shooting in tight spaces, sound design, and her unbridled love for filmmaking.


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Mexico’s – Best International Feature, 2024 Academy Awards®

About the filmmaker – Lila Avilés is a Mexican independent film director, screenwriter and producer. She founded her company, Limerencia Films, in 2018. Her breakthrough debut feature film “The Chambermaid,” 2018, was selected to represent Mexico at the 2020 Oscars© and Goya Awards. The film was invited to more than sixty film festivals around the world, garnering awards and critical acclaim. Avilés has served on many festival juries, including San Sebastian International Film Festival (Spain 2021), Morelia International Film Festival (Mexico 2019), FICUNAM (Mexico 2020), Lima International Film Festival (Peru 2020), Antofacine Festival (Chile 2020), Nespresso Talents 2019 (Festival Morelia 2019), Fic Monterrey 2022.


96% on RottenTomatoes

“One of the finest movies you’ll see this year.”Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“Exquisite…so achingly assured is Avilés’ grasp of character and narrative, so attuned is her handheld camera to nuances of perspective, setting and atmosphere, that she pulls you into the action with a depth and force of feeling that eludes some of her more veteran peers.”Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times 

“A dazzling, vibrant child’s-eye view of jubilation and tragedy. Exuberantly lovely.”Jessica Kiang, Sight & Sound

“JOYFUL AND DEVASTATING. The dynamism of Ms. Avilés’s observational style — and the delicacy with which she threads moving drama through the quotidian — sidesteps sentimentality for something more bracing, and more true.” – Zachary Barnes, Wall Street Journal