| Ten years in the making, Maureen Gosling’s
Blossoms Of Fire is an inspirational documentary portrait
of a world shrouded in myth and mystery.
For ages, the Zapotec culture of southern Mexico has been
painted in popular literature as a type of matriarchal Shangri-La—populated
with gorgeous women who rule over their men, and their society,
with a firm hand. Indeed, the women profiled here exhibit
a rare strength and confidence—but they aren’t superwomen.
They are mothers and wives and daughters who choose to lead,
sometimes against overwhelming odds. They aren’t beauties
in the classic sense. Except for their brightly colored embroidered
skirts they hold a rather plain and natural appearance. What’s
special about them is their inner strength and plainspoken
attitude. These are women who have thrived on their ability
to speak the truth and probably wouldn’t know how to survive
The importance of Gosling’s film is that it offers not only
a unique perspective of women but of a native people and their
developing culture. The Zapotecs have had their struggles
(including a longstanding opposition to the Mexican government
and a flirtation with revolutionary movements) but overall,
these are people filled with goodness, open and free of pre-conceived
judgement. For example, many will be surprised at the acceptance
and appreciation of gays and lesbians.
Much like last year’s Genghis Blues, this is a small-budget
project that succeeds in a number of small and surprising
ways. The narration, often delivered in the Zapotec language,
with subtitles, blends perfectly with telling images and authentic
folk music. Gosling uses these tools and her refined editing
talents to create a smooth pace that transports the viewer
into the heart of the film and its subject.
Many will hail Blossoms Of Fire as a feminist work,
but that would be oversimplification. It is a film that succeeds
at documenting the celebration of a gentle and persistent
spirit. Like the best documentaries, it informs and entertains
in equal measure. We end up learning a little about ourselves
along the way.
— Ed Scruggs