‘A Costume for Nicholas’ Producer Fotosíntesis Media Preps ‘Ch’ulel’: ‘Tzeltal Beliefs Can Feed Into an Amazing Fantasy Story’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Fotosíntesis Media, a Mexican pioneer in cause-driven entertainment, has unveiled  “Ch’ulel,” a 2D fantasy adventure animated feature for 6-8s tapping into the mindset of Tzeltal community.

Mexico City-based, Fotosíntesis Media burst onto the scene in 2015, launched by Cannes-winning director Carlos Reygadas and producer Jaime Romandia and director-producer Miguel Angel Uriegas.

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Having scored Mexican Academy best animated feature Ariels in 2016 for “The Stone Boy,” which Uriegas directed and produced and another Ariel in 2021 for “A Costume for Nicholas” “Ch’ulel” will be the sixth feature for Fotosintesis which world premiered a fourth, “Bestia,” co-produced with Denmark’s Zentropa and Brazil’s Levante Films, at June’s Guadalajara Film Festival.

Announced at the 2021 Quirino Awards, a fifth feature, “My Friend the Sun,” is in production, with a completion date set for Nov. 2024 and theatrical release in 2025.

“Ch’ulel” has just been selected for Animation! Pitching Sessions, the animated project forum at Ventana Sur, a joint venture of Cannes Marché du Film and Argentina’s INCAA film-TV agency. 

According to the indigenous community of the Tzeltal, everything in this world has a Ch’ulel, a soul., the animated feature’s synopsis observes.

When people in her village begin to fall ill, Sakbé, a young Tzeltal girl, will embark on a journey of self-discovery and cultural heritage to unlock the maximum potential of her Ch’ulel and save the future of her community.


“Ch’ulel” marks the feature debut of director Sarah Emilia Páramo, a Mexico City-based 2D animator attracted to projects with a social undertow. Currently in development, is written by Uriegas and Celia Varona and produced by Uriegas and María Sojob.

“After our experience with ‘My Friend the Sun’ exploring the Aztec myths and incorporating a character with dialogues in Nahuatl in the film, which is the most spoken indigenous language in our country, we decided to continue in that direction and push the line further into exploring the cultural heritage of a small indigenous community that not many people knows about: the Tzeltal community,” Uriegas said.

“Their beliefs are rooted in a magical, surrealistic vision of humankind (along with its modernity) and nature as one intertwined macro-environment that has everything to feed into an amazing fantasy story,” he observed adding that “We strongly believe that it is very important for the new generations to learn about this and find ways to reconnect with this heritage and, as always, find ways to use the film in benefit of the community.”

“The thing that inspires me the most about ‘Ch’ulel’ is the fact that it is a fantasy story rooted in something real, something palpable,” said Páramo.

“You can take a plane and visit this community, learn from them. In a world where most animated media is based on pure fantasy, this one is actually based on something real. I want to imprint a language and visual style that can break our traditional perception of indigenous communities and bring that perception to this very moment.”

“Ch’lel” has no star voice cast attached but, in what Uriegas calls “one of the greatest values of this project,” the voice of one of the main characters will be performed by an indigenous prayer and healer woman from the Tzeltal community, the 80-year-old María Ruz, from state of Chiapas, who will perform in her native tongue. “Her craft is getting forgotten with every new generation, so it is of utmost importance to preserve her prayers and knowledge through the film,” Uriegas added.

Animation! runs Nov. 27-Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires.

Miguel Angel Uriegas (center), pre-recording with María Ruz (second right)

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