‘I Dream in Another Language’ Review

At the outset of Mexican director Ernesto Contreras’ entrancing fourth feature, “I Dream in Another Language,” the fate of an indigenous language hangs in the balance: Only two living souls — once the closest of friends, now bitter rivals — still speak Zikril, which could easily die with them. Like certain species of rare butterflies, languages really do disappear, but the director (and his screenwriter brother, Carlos) pursue the metaphor further: In a world of globalization, endangered primitive languages represent different ways of seeing and understanding the world, perspectives that are lost when we fail to show sufficient curiosity in the generations and cultures that have come before.

In a perverse twist, this lovely, festival-anointed art film (which won the world dramatic competition’s audience award at Sundance) opens the same day as “The Emoji Movie,” and though each film depicts the death of communication in its own fashion, only one could be described as a poetic elegy to all that is lost when that happens. But even without the intrigue of a visiting linguist struggling to document Zikril (an imaginary dialect invented for the film), Contreras’ film uniquely honors the memories and experience embodied in our elders — which it is our responsibility to preserve, and their prerogative to take to their graves, if they so desire.

It’s rare enough to find a university researcher like Martín (Fernando Álvarez Rebeil) willing to dedicate time and energy to documenting the past, but his task is complicated here by the fact that the two men still capable of speaking Zikril haven’t exchanged words in nearly 50 years. Traveling from Mexico City to a small tropical village, Martín intends to record conversations between the elderly duo, only to find that one-time blood brothers Isauro (José Manuel Poncelis) and Evaristo (Eligio Meléndez) fell out almost half a century earlier over a Spanish-speaking girl, María…

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