Translating, recording and releasing the film into the Maya language Ixil will allow the communities most affected by the armed conflict depicted in the film Granito to watch the groundbreaking documentary in their own language. The Ixil version features the recorded voices of Antonio Caba Caba, Jose Sánchez Cobo, Elena Guzman Cobo, Sebastiana Ceto López, Alejandro Santiago Cedillo and was completed entirely with voiceover, instead of subtitles, to make it accessible to Ixil-speakers who may not be able to read. It is the first time a feature-length documentary film about Guatemala’s years of violence and quest for justice has been translated into the Mayan language Ixil; approximately 5.5% of the Ixil population was killed in the genocide.
The film, titled Tal B’aq’ Ivatz Sanab’: Nu’kich Aq’on, K’ulb’al Tib’ Txumb’al in Ixil, will be presented by Skylight’s Guatemalan crew at the festival. The crew will also document this unprecedented premiere, shooting footage for the production of a short film about the complex process of creating the Ixhil language version, to be released at a later date in 2014.
The translation of the film into Ixil, then, is a key element of the documentary process, ensuring the film is accessible to the Ixil community. Matilde Terraza, a member of the Ixil community and the film’s translator, writes “Translating Granito: How to Nail a Dictator into the Maya people’s language who survived the genocide is an opportunity for me to contribute to my people’s development. Over the course of my life, I have realized how important it is is to know our past and history because it helps us to understand our present. Moreover, it’s necessary to learn from the past to make decisions about future. The decisions we make about how to react to our history–what we ask for in reparations, or what we apologize for, depending on the side–are fundamental to improving our lives, and for moving forward. Granito in Ixil is a powerful resource for Ixil people, especially for the youth and children who may not be able to formally study our history but feel they need to know about it. They can find what they are searching for in the translated version of Granito. The translated film opens the door to knowing Guatemala’s past and to preserves the collective memory of the genocide committed against the Ixil people.”
Granito: How to Nail a Dictator tells the riveting story of a thirty year struggle to bring Guatemala’s ex-dictator Ríos Montt to justice for genocide against the Mayan population. Back in 1982, a young first-time filmmaker, Pamela Yates, was able to gain unprecedented access to Ríos Montt, his generals and leftist guerrillas waging a clandestine war deep in the mountains. The resulting film, When the Mountains Tremble (1983) revealed that the Guatemalan army was killing Mayan civilians. 30 years later When the Mountains Tremble re-emerged in Yates’ life when an international lawyer investigating the Ríos Montt regime asked for her help – she wanted to know if When the Mountains Tremble and its outtakes just might contain evidence to help bring charges of genocide in a case against Ríos Montt. In January 2012, after 30 years of impunity and endless legal maneuvering, former Guatemalan general and dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was indicted by a Guatemalan court.
From March through May 2013, Ríos Montt stood trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. The material in Granito that Yates had filmed in 1982 served as key evidence in the trial. Finally in May of 2013, decades after the events of the early 1980s, Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted of committing genocide against the Mayan people–specifically groups from the Ixil region.