'Los Guardianes' directed by Kira O' Boyle

by Naomi Gledhill from MY HERO Staff

153246Still of Mayan stingless bees taken from 'Los Guardianes' Dr. Christopher Boulton, with permission

Los Guardianes has won the College Documentary Award at the 2023 MY HERO International Film Festival. Made by college students Kira O’ Boyle, Jharia Morris and Noah Jones, the short details the lives of two brothers in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Mexico working to raise stingless bees. Manual Vazquez Cetina and Julio Vazquez worked alongside their father as children, helping him in the Ancient Mayan practice of keeping stingless bees and harvesting an extremely pure type of honey. They now continue his work at their own sanctuary, U Baàalamo’ob. The sanctuary’s name, U Baàalamo’ob, means “The Guardians,” in the Mayan language; the brothers chose the name as they are the guardians of the bees.

153244Group photo of the 'Los Guardianes' film crew and cast.Dr. Christopher Boulton, with permission

The brothers have created a circular model of agriculture, using excrement from sheep, rabbits and hens to make compost. The compost is then mixed with leaves and other organic materials to create fertilizer which is used on the corn. Leaves from the Chaca tree are used to clean the nests; they remove odor from the nest, working as an insect repellent. A special technique is then used to reseal the nest with mud.

In the film, the brothers emphasize just how important bees are to the functioning of the planet. Without bees, there would be no pollination, meaning all of the plants that bees usually pollinate would be lost. One of the brothers explains that bees are an imperative part of maintaining the circle of life, adding that, “[bees] are small, but they work hard.” As well as the bees themselves, the honey they create is a significant part of Mayan culture. Local Juvencio Cen describes its healing properties in the film, noting that honey from stingless bees can cure the flesh of the eyes if used as eye drops, or cure a sore throat when mixed with honey and eaten every morning. He explains that, “[Mayan honey] is the best and there is no honey like it.” Manual Vazquez Cetina describes the importance of stingless bees in Mayan culture, both ancient and current:

“Stingless bees are very important in Mayan culture because they give us medicine, they give us health, and they also give us food [ …] and life on the planet.”

153245Director Kira O'BoyleDr. Christopher Boulton, with permission

MY HERO spoke to director Kira O’Boyle, a senior at The University of Tampa studying Communications, Journalism, and Cinema Studies. Growing up amongst a family of “film buffs,” O’Boyle has always been interested in filmmaking; taking the class that led to the creation of Los Guardianes allowed her not only to learn more about film, but also travel and explore different cultures. She said:

“We were able to explore Felipe Carrillo Puerto during our free time which made the experience that much more amazing. We stayed in homestays, slept in hammocks, ate traditional food, and showered with buckets of water. I think doing these things and feeling like part of the community was so important in understanding the people and hence creating the truest film we could.  Learning Mayan was such an honor and I felt so immersed, welcomed, and excited the entire time.”

The class was run by Dr. Christopher Boulton, whom O’Boyle explained to MY HERO was, “the mind behind the film.” Dr. Boulton was in contact with the Na’aTik Language and Culture Institute, who were able to provide the filmmakers with a Mayan translator named Caesar. Caesar, Dr. Boulton, and Dr. Andrew DeMil all guided the students through the filmmaking process, furthering their education on history and ethics along the way.

O’Boyle also explained that Manuel Vazquez Cetina and his family were amazing subjects to work with, and that they were very informative about Mayan culture. She told MY HERO:

“Manuel was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met along with his family. They were excited to share their business and were accommodating, patient, and so great to work with. I was mainly inspired by how positive they were and how humble they are despite how tedious and challenging the work that they do is. […] The story of Manuel, his family, and U’Balaam’ob Meliponario really struck me. It was an important one to be told… I think a lot of Americans are taught that Mayan culture is a thing of the past, so it was fascinating that not only do these people still very much exist, but they are trailblazing in health and medicine through their pure honey and the world barely knows about it. […] Manuel, his family, and Caesar really helped in showcasing the fundamentals of the process itself as well as the background of Mayan culture.”

On being selected as a winner in the 2023 MY HERO International Film Festival, O'Boyle said:

"It is very exciting to be selected for the MY HERO 19th International Film Festival knowing how many amazing films they showcase. They highlight remarkable voices and stories from around the world that are necessary to be shared with a larger audience. It is an honor and very exciting to be a part of this year’s festival."

Dr. Christopher Boulton said on the film winning first place in the College Documentary category: 

“We are thrilled to be recognized by MY HERO, an incredible organization that has been pointing the spotlight on positive changemakers to celebrate the best of humanity all over the world since 1995. And we hope that including The Guardians on a platform that has reached over 100 million people from 197 countries will help spread the word about the Vazquez brothers’ important work.”

You can watch Los Guardianes here.

Learn more about Manuel Vazquez Cetina here

Learn more about Na'atik here

Learn more about the University of Tampa’s Communication Department here

Full list of credits: 


Kira O'Boyle


Jharia Morris


Noah Jones


Manual Vazquez Cetina

Julio Vazquez

Juvencio Cen

Spanish Translator

Cesar Manrique

Maya Translators

Gladys Wigelmy Sanchez Chan

Paulino Eleazar Ek Martín

Production Supervisors

Dr. Christopher Boulton

Dr. Andrew Demil

Special Thanks

The University of Tampa

International Programs Office

Barbara Prucha

The Garcia Uicab Family

The Dzul Perez Family

Catherine Gray

Dafne Calderon Burgoa

Yannira Lopez Perez

About the MY HERO International Film Festival:

The My Hero Film Festival is an annual event dedicated to showcasing films that celebrate the power of the human spirit. Hosted by Eva Haller, a prominent philanthropist and advocate for social change, the festival provides a platform for filmmakers to share inspirational stories of everyday heroes. Thanks to generous sponsors, prizes are awarded to elementary, middle school, high school, college and professionals in a variety of categories including documentary, narrative, music video, animation, experimental, and more.

The festival aims to inspire audiences to recognize the heroism in their own lives and encourage positive actions in their communities. Learn more.

Join us for the Awards Celebration on Saturday November 18th at 2pm (PST). Festival winners and their heroes will be on hand to answer questions and share their stories. Short clips from select films will be screened. Awards are given to winners at Elementary, Middle School, High School, College and Professional levels. Register HERE.

Page created on 10/30/2023 12:42:51 PM

Last edited 11/22/2023 11:57:58 AM

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