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GRANITO: How to Nail a Dictator's Exemplary Outreach Campaign

Going Digital for Greater Social Impact and Dividends


GRANITO: How to Nail a Dictator's Exemplary Outreach Campaign

Filmmaker Pamela Yates in the Field.

Skylight Pictures
For the filmmakers of GRANITO: How to Nail A Dictator, the now trending transmedia approach to gaining greater exposure and offering audiences opportunity to interact with nonfiction film isn't a new notion.

In fact, Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy and Paco De Onis have considered "transmedia" outreach to be an essential part of their production from the outset, and their exemplary outreach program serves as a model for other socially committed filmmakers.

In case you've not seen it, GRANITO is a compelling documentary about the ongoing efforts of an international tribunal to indict and bring to trial the former Guatemalan dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt for the crime of genocide.

In the film, we see that footage shot by Yates during the 1980s for her documentary entitled When The Mountains Tremble, provided important evidence to be used in establishing the case against Rios Montt.

The inclusion of this very relevant information in GRANITO adds another dimension to the film's focus -- it is not only about the indictment of the dictator, but about the documentary filmmaker's process and the overall importance of documentary film. (Read my full review).

The Rios Montt case isn't over yet. Nor is the agony suffered by the victims of his corruption and crimes against humanity. It is of vital importance to Yates, Kinoy and De Onis that the prosecution of Rios Montt and the stories of his countless victims be kept before the public eye. Outreach is the key.

"That we are human rights activists is clearly reflected in our films, and we consider ongoing audience outreach to be our obligation. We are committed to having GRANITO reach a wide range of audiences -- those whose lives have been disrupted by Rios Montt's actions, or by the actions of other dictators who use their powers against the citizens of the countries in which they rule. And to those audiences who need to know about the genocide so they can become engaged in demanding justice and civil rights for the people of Guatemala and other Latin American countries, and elsewhere in the world," says Pamela Yates.

GRANITO receives its broadcast premiere on June 28, on PBS, as part of POV's 25th anniversary season. The filmmaking team's intensive outreach program is in place to coincide with the nationwide broadcast, and to continue beyond it.

Outreach Via POV

The POV broadcast assures that GRANITO will be available free of charge in every household in the U.S.A. and Canada, on television or through simultaneous online streaming in both English and Spanish. The streamed versions will remain online and available for four months.

"We had PBS remove the outside U.S./Canada geoblock, so that the stream can be accessed from anywhere in the world, including Spain, Guatemala and all of Latin America, wherever there is sufficient bandwidth," says Yates. "And because this is a special 25th Anniversary season for POV, we are celebrating by also having them stream the English and Spanish versions of the GRANITO prequel, When The Mountains Tremble.

Audiences who watch GRANITO via broadcast or streaming will see an updated version of the film, the ending of which has been amended to include the actual indictment of Rios Montt (yes, at long last!) in the Guatemalan courts on charges of genocide.

"This is the first time that a former head of state in the Americas has been arrested with the charge of genocide -- and it's a great victory for justice and human rights," says Yates.

Through the POV link, additional GRANITO materials are available to audiences:

  • The GRANITO iPad/iPhone app provides previews of the film
  • The GRANITO Discussion Guide is available for use by civil society organizations, communities, universities, law schools, film schools and other groups who seek further information about the film and its pressing subject matter.
  • A high school lesson plan is designed for use in grades nine through 12.
  • Latino Public Broadcasting and POV have provided the funds to translate the guides into Spanish.

Beyond The Broadcast

Yates, Kinoy and De Onis are currently at the midway mark in the three-year GRANITO outreach campaign they developed, with funding from the Ford Foundation, Bertha Foundation and Latino Public Broadcasting.

Additionally, Yates received a photographic fellowship from Open Society Foundations for GRANITO: Every Memory Matters (GMEM), the interactive Web site that is the centerpiece of their outreach campaign. Set to launch on June 28, to coincide with the film's broadcast premiere, GMEM is designed to allow victims and their family members to post photos, video, audio and text that will share their personal stories and impressions of what happened during and after the genocide. The goal is to make sure that first hand knowledge and eye witness testimonies be preserved for future generations, as Yates explains in a brief video about, which will be helmed by Alejandro De Onis of Skylight Digital.

Many of the posted memories on GMEM are in Spanish, because the site is intended for the use of Guatemalans in country and in the diaspora (1.4-million Guatemalans live in the USA), but posts are not restricted to Spanish.

POV has developed a lesson plan for high school students to interact with GMEM.

Other Facets of the Outreach Campaign

The GRANITO team maintains a robust GRANITO Facebook page that currently has some 4,400 followers. People post questions, stories, concerns and news in relation to unfolding justice initiatives in Guatemala and use of the film worldwide. Accoridng to Yates, the Facebook page, in English and Spanish, has evolved into an engaged online community.

GRANITO: How To Nail a Dictator is now available in English and Spanish, and in the Mayan language K'iche (spoken by the largest Maya group which includes Noble Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú), and in Ixil (spoken in the Mayan communities where much of GRANITO and When The Mountains Tremble were filmed).

Furthermore, any Guatemalan who wants a DVD of GRANITO can get one for free via the film's Guatemalan producer, Beatriz Gallardo, by filling out an online form in Spanish or English. Requests for DVDs are being tracked through Google metrics, so the filmmakers can understand how the film is being used and continue to better their outreach efforts.

On the official GRANITO: How to Nail A Dictator Website, the filmmakers present additional filmed materials, including the GRANITO Files, a collection of three-minute portraits of the film's protagonists.

Additionally, extra film modules that delve deeper into the various subjects covered in the film are presented on the ITVS Website.

"We will continue our outreach and audience engagement campaign as long as the GRANITO is contributing to the social justice movement and generating some heat," says Yates. "For us, outreach isn't about marketing our film in order to enhance profits, it's about reaching the greatest number of people and having the greatest impact. We need financial success to sustain our efforts as we work on our films for the long term, but what we value most about our work are the social dividends."

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