There is no hiding that I was hazy at best on the subject of Guatemalan politics before seeing Burden Of Peace.
There is no hiding that I was hazy at best on the subject of Guatemalan politics before seeing Burden Of Peace. However, Joey Boink and Sander Wirken have introduced me into a world they experienced through the journey of attorney general Claudia Paz y Paz and her personal struggle against corruption. The directors embarked on a lengthy 4 year stay in which they saw firsthand the tragic aftermath of the civil war, and, with no attempt to hide its brutality, the first 10 minutes take us on a tour of death and decay with bloody bodies laying abandoned in the street introducing us to a world very different to our own.
Whilst the early parts of the film show us the consequences of the civil war with no remorse, it is when meeting Paz y Paz that we first see the human side to what has been aggression and brutality. You may already have a preconception of what she would be like: loud, forceful, aggressive, but, whilst she is without a doubt strong, independent, extremely brave and courageous, it is astonishing to see how human, gentle, and warm she is.
Now we can begin to understand the positive change she has accomplished. Guatemala is fighting a battle against crime. Powerful criminal networks have control over the police as well as the public, hampering any progress that can be made. The Human Rights Watch established the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) but it was not until Paz y Paz came to power as attorney general, that the results came in. A shocking 98% of murder cases went unsolved before Paz y Paz, and her 4 years saw a massive drop to 70%, and remarkably saw Efrain Ríos Montt convicted of genocide.
Branded as ‘Little Fatty’ by Fundación Contra el Terrorismo president Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, the numerous and wealthy political opponents united in seeing her removed from power, with the release of Montt after just one night in prison. Even though so much justice had been accomplished, corruption forced her out of her position, and the film ends with her leaving the country due to fears of her personal safety. Guatemala will face an ongoing battle, but to understand the situation better do yourself a favour and see Burden Of Peace. With these atrocities often going unmentioned in the mainstream media, the situation in Guatemala deserves the attention.
This film was shown as part of the 'Human Rights Watch Film Festival' on 25th & 26th March 2015 at The Curzon, Soho, London.