Friday, August 3, 2012

Look on! In Guatemala, Mountains Tremble

(Part 1 of a 2-part Look On! series of posts; Part 2 is here.)

When the Mountains Tremble (1983) is an incredible documentary.
It tells the story of state repression, under the leadership of General Efraín Ríos Montt, of indigenous populations in Guatemala during the 1980s. The filmmaker is Pamela Yates (bottom right) of Skylight Pictures, an IntLawGrrls contributor.
Narrating this documentary about the war on Guatemala's Mayan population is Rigoberta Menchú (left). Then in her early 20s, Menchú would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Mountains bravely uncovers the role of the United States in facilitating, for its own trade purposes, military rule in Guatemala. Liberal capitalism and free trade promoted by the United States, the film tells us, led to the dispossession of local populations. Footage from both Guatemalan and US television is presented – including a statement of then-President Ronald Reagan, in which he calls on businesses to
'be bold and spread American enterprise throughout the hemisphere'.
Beyond asserting US responsibility in providing finance and weapons to the Guatemalan military, Mountains also looks at the complicity of religious organizations in a massacre. Following repression of some priests within the Catholic Church, evangelical groups from the US began to arrive.
Throughout the story, we witness the organization of el pueblo guatemalteco, the people of Guatemala. It is these people who star in this film, risking their lives to tell the stories of repression and mass human rights violations. We see training exercises of the guerrillas, the activism of young men and young women who wish to protect their people and who strive for equality.
This powerful documentary, exploring the multifaceted factors which lead to genocide and human rights violations, currently can be viewed free online at PBS here
In my post tomorrow, I'll review Yates' 2011 sequel to this film – another documentary, entitled Granito.

(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)

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