Human rights documentary “Granito” premieres on campus

Bridget Donnelly

The film “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” had its Wisconsin premiere Sunday, October 23 and Monday, October 24 in the Warch Campus Center Cinema. The film’s director, Pamela Yates, and producer Paco de Onís, were present for the Monday evening showing and held a question and answer session following the film.

Two of Yates and de Onís’s other films, “State of Fear: The Truth About Terrorism” and “The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court,” were screened in the Cinema as well. Yates and de Onís also held a question and answer session following the screening of “The Reckoning.” Both sessions were well-attended by students, faculty and community members.

Yates is a co-founder of Skylight Pictures. The company’s website declares that it is “dedicated to creating films and digital media tools that advance awareness of human rights and the quest for justice by implementing multi-year outreach campaigns designed to engage, educate and activate social change.”

The films were presented in conjunction with the “Engaging Human Rights” series. Stephen Edward Scarff Memorial Distinguished Visiting Professor Alexander Wilde joined Yates and de Onís in engaging with students in various capacities, both via classroom visits and the question and answer sessions.

“Granito” follows the story told in “When the Mountains Tremble,” a documentary Yates made in 1983 on the conflict between the Guatemalan government and the country’s indigenous Mayan population, in which ultimately over 200,000 Maya people were killed. The film was narrated by Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú.

In “Granito,” Yates goes back to the footage from her earlier documentary to provide evidence towards bringing justice to the people responsible for the Guatemalan genocide, particularly in the case of José Efraín Ríos Montt, the president of the military regime in Guatemala from 1982-1983. Yates interviewed Ríos Montt while documenting for her first film and was able to use this footage alongside other evidence when the Guatemalan case was brought to the Spanish National Court.

During the question and answer session following the showing of “Granito,” audience members asked Yates, de Onís and Wilde various questions ranging from the current political situation in Guatemala to the production of the film and other media projects associated with Skylight Pictures and the film itself.

At the end of the session, a Guatemalan man spoke up and had de Onís translate his sentiments regarding the film.

“We’ve reached a point where we’d like to forget about that pain and start again with happiness for our country,” translated de Onís. “Thank you for this gift [which] brings to mind all the stories of the families. […] I’m a Maya Kaqchikel. I hope that you not only show it here but in Guatemala so that we can see our history.”