A documentary about Guatemalan civil war, revisited
By JACQUELINE SANTILLAN BEIGHLEY
Just as riveting as the best modern thrillers and and just as compelling in its scope, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator tells the story of nine human-rights activists trying to bring the perpetrators of the Guatemalan genocide that took place in the early 80s to justice.
Award-winning filmmaker Pamela Yates is not only one of the “granitos” trying to make a difference but also our witness and main storyteller, giving the film a fascinating perspective of what it’s like to document the horrors of the world as a young idealist and later on in life having to revisit these circumstances.
For six months in 1982, young filmmakers Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel went to Guatemala to make a documentary about the country’s civil war. The resulting work was When the Mountains Tremble, which went on to win countless awards at film festivals and catapulted Mayan activist Rigoberta Menchú to the world’s spotlight.
More than 25 years later, Yates gets a call from a lawyer in Spain working on an international genocide case against Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt: her old film and outtakes could be a powerful evidence in the case.
I sat down with Pamela Yates at her home in Brooklyn to discuss this ongoing 30 year tale of film making and the quest for justice.
Granito: How to Nail a Dictator will debut theatrically on Wednesday, September 14 at New York City’s IFC Center and in Los Angeles on September 30 at Laemmle Sunset 5.
Pamela Yates and producer Paco de Onis will be doing a Q & A after the movie September 14 - 18 in New York and at the Los Angeles premier on September 30.
Jacqueline Santillan Beighley is a musician living in Brooklyn and working on a new multimedia musical project with her collaborator/husband Matthew Beighley. She is also a freelance writer, editor and multimedia producer.