By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

The Wayúu indigenous community, a hidden village on the Guajira peninsula somewhere along the Colombian/Venezuelan border, is one of the thousands of towns segregated from the modern world, a place in which peculiar traditions and ancient ritual takes place. Pili, a 12-year old child, is about to take part in the ritual of confinement, a ritual that happens after a little girl’s first menstruation, in which she will spend a year inside a mud cabin, completely isolated from the world. This is a ritual of passage to the adult world, where the only people who are able to visit her are very close relatives who has been out of a sinful road, and where she has to spent countless hours lying still in a hammock. The twelve moons (12 lunas) go by slowly, and after that, she comes out her cabin a changed woman.

A correct documentary with some outstanding moments,  La eterna noche de las doce lunas (The Eternal Night of the Twelve Moons) finds Padilla following the life of Pili and the community in this 12 month experience, allowing us to be part her experience of isolation and exploring the internal universe, ideas and mindset of her relatives. Deeply engraved in Pili’s family, are the concepts of purity, dignity and respect a woman should earn in order to receive a proper dowry from a good man, things one can only achieve through this ritual. Though, the final decision of submitting herself to the ritual is Pili’s own, and she embarks into this journey with an stoicism which is both admirable and disorienting.

Somehow, the paradox opens and the end of the film: This confinement seems to be a ritual of liberation for her, and this is shown in a way, when she gets out of the hut and into the outside world. Pili is now a changed woman, her gaze and pace have changed for good. The question remains if this is just the result of the psychological implications of being locked away for such an amount of time at this early age, or if the ritual conveys something more, something mystical and magical as an outcome of the tradition.

Either if one is horrified or just amazed by this ritual of motionless claustrophobia, one should give credit to Padilla’s to portray the whole experience with due respect, even with a genuine admiration for the journey (and also, in all honesty, with a poor choice of soundtrack which somehow feels detrimental to her intention). A case in which «the story is bigger than the film»,  La eterna noche de las doce lunas, is aptly filmed and gives enough space to the viewer to reflect on the subject matter. And in that lies its best merit.

Director: Priscila Padilla
Script:  Priscila Padilla
Cinematography: Daniela Cajías