The Beautiful and the Dammed 




Project Details

For
Year
Team



MArch Part II
2021-2022
Holly Harbour

A bell tower marks the re-establishment of the dam as a spiritual monument.








A pilgrimage leads to the sacred site of a re-imagined hydroelectric dam.



In the mountainous regions of central Guatemala, mega-infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dams lead to the forced displacement of local, Mayan farming communities.

Protests against such projects continue to claim the lives of dozens of indigenous activists. This project imagines an alternative reality in which one such dam is constructed and reclaimed by local people as a site of pilgrimage and memorial to the lives lost.






The film follows four rituals: The refurbishment of the dam, happening every 52 years; the Temazcal, a spiritually cleansing steam bath; a psychedelic mushroom ceremony; and a final act based on the yearly Rab'in Ajaw festival from the city of Cobán.




The new dam structure provides a stage for the performance of rituals and festivities whose degree of transience relates to the Mayan calendar. Both the architecture and the scenes that unfold within its walls take inspiration from ancient Mayan mythology and the magical realist novellas of writer, Miguel Ángel Asturias.






Characters are sculpted in ZBrush with similar features to ancient Mayan figurines, giving them a unique, stylized appearance. Their clothing is designed and simulated on Marvelous designer, incorporating traditional textile patterns.
Storyboard illustrating the sequence of scenes.




Reviving the Past



The architectural forms incorporate elements that reflect the country’s mixed cultural heritage: from robust Mayan temples to elaborately ornamented baroque churches and the carefully crafted, sculptural design of contemporary Mesoamerica. The building is shaped by the passage of time, the flow of water and human activity in a manner that contrasts the traditionally inexorable structure of a dam.







Exterior and interior stills from the animated film.








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