Sunday, June 19, 2011

Human Rights Film Festival: When the Mountains Trembled (1983)

This is the prequel to Granito which I reviewed yesterday. I had had a ticket for the screening which followed Grantino but I left because this terrible head cold got the better of me. Before I left I picked up a copy of the DVD of this film which they were selling in the lobby.

The film tells the story of the internal war that happened in Guatemala between the military and ruling class against pretty much everyone else and in particular the Mayan descended population.

Quietly affecting the film tells the terrible story with an ease and economy that is often lacking in many other documentaries, including this films sequel (which I will discuss shortly). Its a warts and all portrait of a country in the grip of a nasty civil war that was being orchestrated by it's leaders against it's population basically for profit. The film is held together by the narration of Rigoberto Menchu, an activist (and later Nobel Peace Prize winner) who fled the country and worked to shine a light on the terrors that were happening in her homeland.

I was moved. Yes, the film wears it's heart on it's sleeve, but it comes by it honestly and I have the feeling that any skewing towards it's point of view isn't all that terrible. Besides it has a depth of passion that helps to drag you along.

If you read my earlier piece on Granito you know that I was less then happy with the film. I thought the film didn't say very much (I missed about 20 minutes and felt I didn't mess anything) and was probably too long for what it was. I also compared it to the films I had seen earlier this year by saying that Granito didn't have the passion of those films. That isn't the case
with When the Mountains Trembled, which has enough heart and feeling that it kind of makes me wonder what happened to Pamela Yates in the intervening 30 years. Everything Granito did wrong, When the Mountains Trembled did right.

Sitting in my room watching the film I got a bit annoyed when the phone rang and it was a friend calling to just shoot the breeze. I went along with them for a while but I ultimately hustled them off the phone because I wanted to get back to this film.

You really should see this film. Its a a film that will fill you in on something I'm pretty sure most of you aren't aware of. Certainly you should see this film if you are seeing Granito, since this film fills in a great number of details you may not have been otherwise aware of. (Watching this made bits of Granito play better to the point I don't think you should see the newer film with out seeing this one first)

Definitely worth tracking down.

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