A young anthropologist named Ernesto works for the Forensic Foundation, a national service absorbed in facilitating the trial of soldiers who precipitated Guatemala’s civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2018 he interviews a woman from a rural village, who he identifies as a lead that may guide him to his father: a missing guerrillero who disappeared in the struggle.
Is it an exploration of the forgotten regions of Guatemala?
Or is it a probing tale of the women there, working to mend the frayed fabrics of a broken society?
César Díaz’s slow-burning film, which we learn started as a documentary project about military massacres, expands on the country’s oral storytelling tradition, presenting a violent history through his camera lens: one that challenges a regime that led to such widespread turmoil.
Panning wide angle, fog-shrouded regions of Guatemala, the camera twists and turns through ravaged communities, disappearing histories. Díaz zooms in on the importance of the oral account. As Ernesto jumps into the “work” of “another mass grave”, viewers are forced to confront the sheer number of bodies—plucked and mutilated bodies, all left to disappear. We watch widows striving for the justice that is left: justice in finality.
Outsider Pictures Documents the Compelling Story of Guatemalan Widows
Muted community mumblings, slow, lingering shots of human skeletons, and quiet courtroom scenes interrupt the terror of history that marks the faces and livelihoods of survivors. We watch the women slowly finding closure as their husband’s bodies are exhumed and counted for, the dust of the past finally settling.
This docu-drama offers up a collective of survivors’ stories. A similar theme of disappearance is burned into their histories, and spoken from their mouths into the viewers’ line of vision.
The film will likely appeal to an audience with some interest in the history of Central America, as well as anyone who is interested in learning about feminine resistance around the world.
For more information and for screening locations and dates visit the Outsider Pictures OUR MOTHERS NUESTRAS MADRES web page.
Images courtesy of OUR MOTHERS/NUESTRAS MADRES
Ernesto Armando Espitia
Cristina Emma Dib
Nicolasa Aurelia Caal
Juan Julio Serrano Echeverría
Freddy Victor Moreira
Screenplay and direction César Díaz
Photography Virginie Surdej
Editing Damien Maestraggi
Sound Vincent Nouaille, Gilles Benardeau, Emmanuel De Boissieu
Music Rémi Boubal
Sets Pilar Peredo
Make Up Eva Ravina
Costumes Sofía Lantán
Producers Need Productions (Belgique), Perspective Films (France)
Coproducers Proximus (Belgique), Cine Concepcion (Guatemala)
Produced by Géraldine Sprimont, Delphine Schmit
Coproduced by Joaquin Ruano, Pamela Guinea
Associate producer Anne-Laure Guégan
About the Author: Theressa Malone
Theressa Malone is a writer / recent Comparative Literature graduate from the University of California, Berkeley. She worked for various small press publications in the Bay Area before returning to her hometown in New Zealand. There, as well as writing for Picture this Post, she is the founder, designer, and editor at Milly: an international literary magazine publishing essays, short prose and poetry that aims to showcase the unique literary ecosystem in Aotearoa. You can find her at millymagazine.com.