In her second film after The Chambermaid in 2018, Lila Avilés leaves behind the cramped hotel rooms of her debut but continues to work on the connection between relationships and interior spaces. This time, the setting is a large house where, over the course of a long day, family and friends meet for a dual ritual: it is the birthday of young father and painter Tona, but as it will likely be his last, it is also a farewell ceremony. There is duality in the film’s soul, too, with the frenzy of preparations and the spontaneity of the celebration concealing the profoundly archaic and spiritual dimension of the title. Tona’s weakened body is initially invisible, protected in a room where he tries to summon up the strength required for the humanist ceremony in which he will be showered with all the love and affection needed to face his final journey.
Like the character of the bonsai-loving patriarch, Avilés takes meticulous care in shaping her own miniature, bending trajectories and feelings, pruning all frills and excess. A film that prepares for loss, Tótem amasses signs and forms of life: animals, insects, plants and a parade of wonderful human beings who are stronger together.
by Lila Avilés
with Naíma Sentíes, Monserrat Marañon, Marisol Gasé, Saori Gurza, Teresita Sánchez, Mateo García Elizondo, Juan Francisco Maldonado, Iazua Larios, Alberto Amador
Mexico / Denmark / France 2023 Spanish 95’ Colour World premiere


  • Naíma Sentíes (Sol)
  • Monserrat Marañon (Nuri)
  • Marisol Gasé (Alejandra)
  • Saori Gurza (Esther)
  • Teresita Sánchez (Cruz)
  • Mateo García Elizondo (Tonatiuh)
  • Juan Francisco Maldonado (Napo)
  • Iazua Larios (Lucía)
  • Alberto Amador (Roberto)


Director Lila Avilés
Screenplay Lila Avilés
Cinematography Diego Tenorio
Editing Omar Guzmán
Music Thomas Becka
Sound Design Guido Berenblum
Production Design Nohemi González Martínez
Costumes Jimena Fernández, Nora Solís
Make-Up Vanessa Campos
Casting Gabriela Cartol, Lila Avilés
Assistant Director Carmina Carballal
Production Manager Héctor Zubieta
Producers Tatiana Graullera, Lila Avilés, Louise Riousse
Co-Producers Per Damgaard Hansen, Jean-Baptiste Bailly-Maître
Co-Production Paloma Productions Kopenhagen
Alpha Violet Production Paris

Produced by

Limerencia Films

Laterna Film

Lila Avilés

The Mexican director, screenwriter and producer founded the Limerencia Films production company in 2018. In the same year, she made her debut feature film The Chambermaid which screened at over 50 international festivals, won numerous awards and was selected as Mexico’s entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar. She has also been a jury member at the international film festivals in San Sebastián, Morelia and Lima.


2018 The Chambermaid 2023 Tótem

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2023