I went to see the new film by Pamela Yates, who made the widely acclaimed When the Mountains Tremble in 1982. Twenty five years later, she revisits the genocide as, for the first time, indictments are called against the perpetrators. Much of the footage shot is a record of the events in Guatemala in the early 1980s as General Ríos Montt conducts Plan Sofia – the carefully orchestrated military destruction of indigenous life and culture in the highlands of Guatemala.
Resulting from an incredible twist of fate, Yates was allowed to shoot the only known footage of the army as it carried out the genocide. Now this footage has become part of the evidence against those responsible for war crimes. Granito is also a record of Yates’ personal journey in going back to Guatemala and revisiting When the Mountains Tremble and rekindles her hope that justice may at last be done. The film includes much testimony from some leading protagonists in the struggle for justice in Guatemala, the US and Spain.
It also brings us more analysis of the uncovering of the Police Archive featuring the case of Fernando García who was disappeared in 1984 and bringing us a moving interview with his daughter, Alejandra. She tells of how her childhood dreams of searching for her father as a butterfly turned into the reality of becoming a lawyer and eventually finding out the truth of what happened. Two police officers were eventually convicted and sentenced to forty years in prison. The search for and conviction of those who gave the orders continues.
Guatemala is a country full of sadness and this comes through in the film and it is a wonder that the country still has the power to break your heart.
The title ‘granito’ comes from the Maya idea that individually we are all but tiny grains of sand and only as we come together can we make a difference against impunity and injustice – the concept of collective change. Through the work of filmmakers, forensics experts in Guatemala, lawyers in Spain, and the survivors of the genocide, the struggle continues – with each individual contributing their ‘granito’, their tiny grain of sand.
The film makes a good companion piece, not only to When the Mountains Tremble, but also to Uli Stelzner’s recently made La Isla. One does get the feeling that the finding of the archives will be seen as a major watershed in the struggle for justice in Guatemala.