Guatemalan Documentaries

by Diana Pastor

Guatemala has great potential for artistic projects, though most of its fields have not been exploited. However, when looking at Guatemalan cinema, you’ll see that although they are few productions, some have transcended borders for their quality and content. In the documentary genre these films stand out for exposing social problems, economic or political in a very piercing way. Here are a few examples of some highly recommended documentaries.


The first is titled “Assaulted Dream” and was made by German Uli Stelzner, who traveled to the border between Guatemala and Mexico in 2006, after seeing a newspaper photograph of a freight train with hundreds of migrants who wanted to cross the border. It revolves around the testimony of several undocumented interviewees from Guatemala and Central America who all share a common goal: to have a better life in America for themselves and their families, even though trying to attain it can cost you your life.


Discovering Dominga. Product of a trip Denese Becker took to Guatemala in 2000, this moving documentary tells the story of Dominga Sic, a Civil War orphan who fled her village in Río Negro in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz when members of her family were massacred by the army. Dominga was later adopted by an American couple and moved to Iowa, making a different life for herself, but carrying inside her what had happened in the past. With the help of a family member, Dominga, aged 28, decides to reunite with her surviving family, her people and their roots.


When the Mountains Tremble and Grain of Sand: During the 80s, young filmmaker Pamela Yates, traveled to Guatemala to get to the backdrop of war. There, among soldiers, rebels and victims, Yates presents a documentary which reveals the starkest face of armed conflict. Years later, Pamela returns to create a sequel to When the Mountains Tremble: Granito de Arena. In it, Yates discovers evidence that demonstrates the real possibility of prosecuting one of those directly responsible for the most horrific genocides in history: Ríos Montt. With a high level of cinematographic quality, Granito de Arena is highly recommended viewing for those wishing to have some knowledge about the current situation of Ríos Montt, who has recently appeared in court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

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