1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

Granito: How To Nail A Dictator - Movie Review - 2011

Using Documentary as Evidence

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

By

Granito: How To Nail A Dictator - Movie Review - 2011

Pamela Yates In The Field for Granito

Skylight Pictures
Granito: How to Nail A Dictator is about the ongoing efforts to bring to trial in an international court of law José Efraín Ríos Montt, the Guatemalan dictator and military commander responsible for genocide in that country.

Director Pamela Yates and Producer Paco de Onis not only cover case preparation by prosecutors based in Spain, including interviews with many of those who suffered at the hand of Rios Montt and his henchmen, but Yates also provides extremely important evidence in the form of archival footage she'd shot of military actions when she was embedded with the guerrillas fighting against Rios Montt's rule.

Documentary As Advocate

Part courtroom drama, part political thriller and part war movie, Granito: How to Nail A Dictator is one of the most compelling. gripping and inspiring documentaries of the year to date. Watching you film, you feel that you're privy to an insider's experience in furthering the fight for human rights and justice.

Documentary As Evidence

As a young filmmaker, Pamela Yates sharpened her cinematic skills during the early 1980s, when she got herself to Guatemala to chronicle that nation's struggle against its repressive, punitive dictatorship, and the widespread killing of civilians, especially those of indigenous descent. She was young, fresh-faced and friendly, and those qualities helped her to gain access to the country's political chiefs and their devastating escapades.

Yates was given permission to fly with a military commander on a helicopter mission. When the chopper crashed but both he and she survived, he felt they'd become comrades in arms and bonded in some almost indescribable way. Yates was given unprecedented access to ride along on military missions and film them. She also was able to convince insurgents to allow her into their camps. So, she saw the military struggle from both sides. In due course, she documented government military activities that were clearly genocide and intended as genocide.

For The Record

Rigoberta Menchu Tum appears in Granito

Skylight Pictures
Not all of the evidentiary footage Yates shot was used in her first film, When the Mountains Tremble, which was released in 1982. But that cache of archival footage was stored in a safe place. And, ironically, it resurfaced some twenty years later to provide evidence necessary for conviction in court of the man who'd granted her permission to shoot it, and to help determine the course and outcome of a crucial human rights investigation.

When approached by the prosecutors preparing the case against Rios Montt and his collaborators, Yates retrieved her old footage and, lo and behold, there was, on film, actual proof of the high commander's complicity in -- and responsibility for -- the genocide of indigenous peoples and other Guatemalans who protested his policies.

This is an amazing story that exemplifies the importance of documentary filmmaking as a way of tracking and keeping record of the world's crucial events and humankind's critical behavior, and it is a tribute to the people -- international human rights leaders (including Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum, who appears in the film), prosecutors and citizen witnesses alike -- who persist in seeking justice and to the survivors who have and are making valiant attempts to reconstruct their lives and carry on.

In the film's title, Granito means 'tiny grain of sand' and it is meant to convey the indigenous Guatemalan concept that great things can happen -- including change for the better -- when people work collectively. That will hopefully be the result of this enlightening, inspiring and challenging film.

If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:

Film Details:

  • Title: Granito: How To Nail A Dictator
  • Director: Pamela Yates
  • Release Date: 2011(Sundance Film Festival)
  • Running Time: 100 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Locations: Guatemala, Spain, USA
  • Language: English and Spanish with subtitles
  • Company: Skylight Pictures
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.