GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy & Paco de Onís, 2011)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Friday, June 17, 7:00; Saturday, June 18, 1:00
Series runs June 16-30
The opening-night selection of the twenty-second Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator is an illuminating, if at times overly self-referential, examination of the power of documentary filmmaking. In 1982, Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel made When the Mountains Tremble, which told the inside story of civilian massacres of the indigenous Maya people as government forces and guerrilla revolutionaries fought in the jungles of Guatemala; one of the film’s subjects, Rigoberta Menchú, became an international figure and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. “When I made that film, I had no idea I was filming in the middle of a genocide,” Yates says at the beginning of Granito. A quarter-century after When the Mountains Tremble, Yates was contacted by lawyer Almudena Bernabeu, who asked Yates to comb through her reels and reels of footage to find evidence of the Guatemalan genocide and help bring charges again dictator Ríos Montt, whom Yates had met with back in 1982. In researching the case, Yates speaks with Menchú, forensic archivist Kate Doyle, journalist liaison Naomi Roht-Arriaza, forensic anthropologist Fredy Peccerelli, Spanish national court judge Santiago Pedraz, victims’ rights leader and genocide survivor Antonio Caba Caba, and Gustavo Meoño, a founding member of the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, each of whom sheds light on the proceedings from various different angles, from digging up bones in mass graves to discussing redacted documents that reveal U.S. involvement in Guatemala. Several of them are risking their lives by both continuing to fight the government and appearing on camera. Part of the “Truth, Justice, and Accountability” section of the Human Rights Watch Festival, which also includes “Times of Conflict and Responses to Terrorism,” “Human Dignity, Discrimination, and Resources,” and “Migrants’ and Women’s Rights,” Granito, which Yates directed with Peter Kinoy and Paco de Onís and is her sixth film to be shown at the festival, is a compelling look at how individuals can make a difference. The music is often overly melodramatic, and Yates does seem to like to show herself both in outtakes from her first film and in serious poses in the new film, but its ultimate point overrides those tendencies. Granito will be shown June 17 at 7:00 and June 18 at 1:00; both screenings will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers as well as subjects Kate Doyle, Alejandra Garcia, and Fredy Peccerelli. The June 17 screening will also be followed by a reception, while the June 18 screening will be followed by a special presentation of When the Mountains Tremble (1982). The festival, which runs June 16-30, features nineteen films from twelve countries that deal with human rights issues around the world. Keep watching twi-ny for further select reviews.