La Isla – Archivos de una tragedia

A good friend went to see the premier showing in Guatemala City, back in April, of the film by Uli Stelzner that the blog featured previously, La Isla – Archivos de una tragedia (‘archives of a tragedy’). She sent me the DVD.

To recap, there was an explosion in the capital and when the rescue services arrived they found piles of documentation which turned out to be the archives of the Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) – millions of records, which the state had continuously denied the existence of. The archive was sealed and the laborious work of sorting and storing the records began, both physically and digitally. The film shows a group of people sitting round a table surrounded by, and sorting, the police records. One by one, during the film, they speak of the record in their hand and, through this, the story of Guatemala in the last fifty six years emerges. The testimonies of Rolando, a volunteer, who finds out what happened to his father not long after he was conceived, and that of brother and sister, Armando and Verónica Morales, who lost so many members of their wider family, are moving beyond words. Disappearances and violent deaths were commonplace and lives were shattered through state sanctioned violence.

Film clips, not previously seen in Guatemala, were shown including images and sounds from the burning of the Spanish Embassy, the coup of Ríos Montt, and interestingly, an interview with Otto Pérez Molina talking about the Israeli weaponry being used in El Quiché during the military offensive in the early 1980s. Scenes of state violence in the streets of the capital and in mountains were also shown.

The shots of present police recruits going through their training provide an interesting link to today and the cello music and its playing provide, to me, a sense of grounding, earthiness and reality to the events being described.

The centrepiece of the film always being the archive itself and what it means to present generations in understanding what happened in the dark recent past of Guatemala.

The DVD is in Spanish and not sure if it will be available with English subtitles. Without question, it is a film that should get as wide an audience as possible and I urge you to see it if you are ever provided with the opportunity to do so.

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Categories: Culture, Justice, Video

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