Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  52 minutes
Date:  2011
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; Spanish / English subtitles
Grade level: 9-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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A Better Life

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Returning to Todos Santos after 30 years, a look at the profound economic and social changes that have transformed this Guatemalan Mayan village.

A Better Life

After 30 years of war, a difficult peace, migration, economic, social and cultural upheaval, for her new film Olivia Carrescia returns to Todos Santos, to examine the changes that have taken place. The Todos Santeros now have cell phones, TV's and large cinderblock houses, but are they better off?

The civil strife of the 1980's ended in the official Peace Accord of 1996, but left many of the conflict's underlying social and economic problems unresolved. An increasing number of Todos Santos, rather than traveling as they had done for generations to the coastal cotton plantations, began traveling back and forth to the U.S.-legally or illegally. They sent back cash remittances that those who were left behind used for household necessities, and later for clothes, electronics and other items. Before long, homes similar to those the migrants saw in the United States and in the luxury resorts of Cancun, Mexico, began springing up in this traditional Mayan village. As a result, Todos Santos grew and prospered, becoming a commercial hub in the northwestern mountains of Guatemala.

But the prosperity was not to last. Long term migration and the economic crisis of 2008 in the U.S. has had severe repercussions in this once small mountain village.

In A BETTER LIFE we meet again Santiaga, the weaver and resourceful homemaker, Benito, the former school teacher, and Desiderio, the wise environmentalist-all familiar to those who have seen the Todos Santos trilogy of films. Along with returning migrants and newly introduced villagers, young and old, the impact of profound change and altered expectations is explored with the sensitivity, awareness and insight that have characterized this documentary series.

'Olivia Carrescia completes a trilogy of films about life in the Mam community of Todos Santos Cuchumatan by furnishing a series of vignettes, poignant and incisive, that document a giddying process of socio-economic as well as cultural change, one that has transformed a hitherto remote corner of highland Guatemala into a globalized hub. Her thirty-year perspective offers us a teeming microcosm of how traditional values are challenged, reconfigured, and often obliterated, yet Todos Santos endures.' -W. George Lovell, Queen's University, Canada (Professor of Geography)

'Based on Carrescia's thirty years of contact with Todos Santos Mam, this is a hopeful rather than despairing look at how the Mayas are struggling to improve their lives - some of them with great success.' -David Stoll, a Professor of Anthropology at Middlebury College

'For over thirty years, prize-winning filmmaker Olivia Carrescia has carefully documented the lives of Todosanteros, developing long-term relationships that are evident in her newest film. Una Vida Mejor is a sensitive portrayal of what intensifying transnational migration has produced in Todos Santos over the course of the past decade. It is a compelling and much-anticipated update that won't disappoint.' -Dr. Jennifer Burrell, Department of Anthropology, University at Albany SUNY


Main credits

Carrescia, Olivia (film director)
Carrescia, Olivia (film producer)
Carrescia, Olivia (cinematographer)
Carrescia, Olivia (film editor)
Carrescia, Olivia (narrator)

Other credits

Produced, directed, photographed, edited and narrated by Olivia Lucia Carrescia.

Distributor credits

A Film by Olivia Carrescia

Docuseek2 subjects

Central America
Indigenous Studies
Cultural Anthropology
Latin American Studies

Distributor subjects

Central America
Cultural Anthropology
Indigenous Peoples
Latin America


Todos Santos; Guatemala; Highlands; Maya; Mayan; villagers; Olivia Carrescia; documentary; film; video; DVD; "A Better Life"; Icarus Films;

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