Film Review - Doc Soup Toronto 7th Dec: Granito: How to Nail a Dictator
Words: David Kirkpatrick
Part autobiography, part sequel, part epilogue of the December installment of Doc Soup in Toronto featured Pamela Yates’ Granito: How to Nail a dictator. The movie picks up 20 years on from where the award-winning 1982 When the Mountains Tremble (Yates’ on-the-ground account of the beginning of a decade of genocide in Guatemala) left off.
We are told by the director beforehand that the purpose of the movie was to reflect on the role of the documentary film maker and to inspire younger documentary makers to use their work for real change. The results though are mixed, with Yates having limited success in figuring out how much she should tell us about her previous movie, Guatemala in the 80’s and about her as a director and activist.
The first of three acts, reviews how Yates, as a young director, filmed around the atrocities in Guatemala in the early 80’s, comprising mostly of cuts from When the Mountains Tremble. The second and third act tell the story of how a wide variety of people from around the world were working to get justice for the 200,000 people who were slaughtered there. Here, Yates is piecing together accounts from survivors, international investigators and former guerrillas with a central focal point of providing evidence for a Spanish Genocide case being brought on Efrain Rios Montt, the military leader of the time, along with other leading members of the ruling military of the time.
These accounts represent the highlights of the movie: The young idealistic Spanish judge who presided over the genocide case, the survivors who are now in their 30s but are staying to fight and represent their Mayan roots and the repatriated Forensic scientist who, despite death threats from on high, continued to exhume thousands of bodies to begin the identification process. The stories end gives us a great insight into how a country deals with atrocities and division in the aftermath of war.
While some accounts of this movie being a vanity project are unfair, the movie was unfocused and it seemed that there probably wasn’t enough new footage to constitute a follow up of feature length. This had the feel of a network television follow up on a news story, or an epilogue to a greater piece. This is not to say that the work in the movie and the courage shown by some participants is not admiral, and as a movie, it still opened the audience’s eyes to a greater story that we would not otherwise been exposed to.
originally posted here: http://weird-waters.tumblr.com/post/13925669807/film-review-doc-soup-toronto-7th-dec-granito