A low-budget film shot in Edinburgh in Mixtec-language is competing in the official selection at one of the most renowned gatherings for contemporary cinema in Latin America.

Scottish & Mexican sci-fi drama Itu Ninu will compete in the Official Selection of the Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico later this month.

The head of the jury for the Official Selection for this year’s festival is celebrated Mexican cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, a three-time Academy Awards nominee for his work on Brokeback Mountain, Martin Scorsese's Silence and The Irishman.

The festival will also be opened by The Lord Of The Rings actor Viggo Mortensen. 

Itu Ninu was shot with support of a Small Grant by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and finished with a Grant by the Diversity and Inclusion Fund of Edinburgh Culture.

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The director, Itandehui Jansen, is a Mexican filmmaker based in Edinburgh and currently leads the MA Film at Screen Academy Scotland.

Armando Bautista García, who produced, wrote and starred in the film, is also based in Edinburgh, as is colourist Stephen Horne. Sound designer William Aikman is based in Glasgow. 

Itu Ninu tells the story of two climate migrants in a highly controlled smart city in the year 2084 under constant surveillance who try to connect with each other by writing old-fashioned letters.

The film delves into the impact of climate change and environmental breakdown on Indigenous Peoples.

To ensure a sustainable approach to filming, the production crew adopted artisanal techniques, employed minimal crew, reducing travel and relying on natural light. 

The Herald: Itu Ninu was shot in EdinburghItu Ninu was shot in Edinburgh (Image: Lista Calista)

The team tracked its carbon footprint utilizing the ALBERT carbon calculator tools and sourced props and costumes from charity shops to minimize unnecessary consumption and waste.

At least 50 per cent of the film’s dialogue is spoken in Mixtec - a broad term for a dialect cluster of over 50 closely related language varieties spoken in the region of Mexico sometimes known as “La Mixteca”  in the state of Oaxaca.

About the film, director Itandehui Jansen said: “This film originated from a very personal preoccupation. The neighborhood we live in, in coastal Scotland, might be flooded within the next 30 years due to climate change. This made me feel a certain urgency to make a film that addresses climate change. 

“Additionally, the screenwriter and producer’s native language Mixtec is endangered due to a rapid decline in speakers. Through the film we wanted to express this profound sense of loss with regards to both the natural environment and Indigenous People’s cultural heritage. 

“Within the narrative, two characters exchange of letters, delving into the profound reasons that forced them to leave their ancestral communities due to devastating droughts. Their reflective correspondence is presented through evocative voice-overs spoken in the Indigenous language Mixtec. I was inspired by narrative techniques employed by masters like Jean-Luc Godard in "Two or Three Things I Know About Her" (1967) or Mark Cousins in "Stockholm, My Love" (2016). 

“We shot on location in Edinburgh, harnessing the beauty of natural light. Embracing a minimalistic, artisanal, and sustainable approach, the aesthetics of the film organically emerged. 

“The film's protagonist, Ángel, assumes the role of a seed trader, embodying specialized knowledge about the intricate world of plants and their life cycles. This thematic thread intertwines with recurring visuals of mesmerizing extreme close-ups and lush greenery. 

“This film invites audiences to re-evaluate our relationship with the world we inhabit. It prompts contemplation of the intricate connections between humanity, nature, and the urgent need for sustainable coexistence.”