Altar de difuntos en el templo de la Soledad-Tzintzuntzan

Noche de Animas Project

In 2010, Metamorfosis Documentation Project embarked on the Todos Santos / Day of the Dead Project, to explore rituals that celebrate the relation between the living and the dead. This Project consisted of three individual Day of the Dead Projects in three distinct traditional communities in Mexico and Bolivia.

The cult of the dead is celebrated throughout Latin America in indigenous and mestizo communities. Known as Día de Muertos or Todos Santos, these celebrations have roots in the cult of the dead of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures and in pagan and Catholic rituals. Each ethnicity, region and country has different ways of honoring their dead, all based on the same sense of responsibility and reciprocity to the ancestors.

We have, through our Projects documenting these traditions, portrayed how the different rituals and beliefs about the proper way to honor the dead, the preparations for the celebrations, the altars, and the communion with the dead strengthen family and community ties, bringing about a sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Noche de Animas Tzintzuntzan was our third individual Day of the Dead Project. MDP, working in collaboration with the Centro Cultural Comunitario “Tzintzuntzan” (Tzintzuntzan Community Cultural Center), documented the traditional celebration of Noche de Animas in the Purhepecha community of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán in Mexico.

As with our other projects, the “Noche de Animas Tzintzuntzan Project” consisted of three phases: the documentation and production of a documentary of the community’s Day of the Dead celebration; the development of a related collaborative community project; and the presentation of the results of the Project to the community and to a wider audience through public presentations and screenings of the documentary, submission of the documentary to film festivals, and the featuring of the Project on our website.


During October and November of 2014, we filmed the preparations and celebrations of Noche de Animas in the town of Tzintzuntzan and in three Purhepecha communities that are part of the municipality -- Ihuatzio, La Pacanda and Ichupio.

During this time and in April of 2015 we also conducted interviews in these communities. During our filming and interviews we included the successful apprentice program we had introduced in our recent Day of the Dead project in Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca. This program is meant to foster the apprentices’ interest in continuing to document the traditions of their community. The Centro Cultural Comunitario “Tzintzuntzan” assisted in identifying two younger members of the community interested in participating in the program.

Two young men were selected from the local CECYTEM (a technological preparatory school), and they assisted in the filming of the celebrations and in conducting the interviews.

In addition to our apprentice program, New Mexico Film Resource (NMFR) sponsored two Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) film students to join us as interns. Along with the two local apprentices, these students assisted in documenting the final preparations for and the actual celebration of Noche de Animas in Tzintzuntzan and La Pacanda.

During September and October of 2015 we co-sponsored, with the Centro Cultural Comunitario “Tzintzuntzan” and Tarhimu Taller from Ihuatzio, an intensive Filming and Editing Workshop for nine young members of the municipality. During this workshop the participants filmed and edited three short cultural documentaries. These shorts were screened for the community.

In September of 2017, in a community event at the Courtyard of the Religious Complex in Tzintzuntzan, we presented the world premiere of our documentary, “Noche de Animas. Tzintzuntzan”. During the event we also granted rights of reproduction and sale of the documentary to the Centro Cultural Comunitario “Tzintzuntzan”. Afterwards, we also screened the documentary locally in the communities of Ihuatzio and La Pacanda. We continue to screen the film whenever possible in Mexico and the USA.