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Quechua 2.0 - A Film Reborn

With support from the Sundance Documentary Film Program’s first round of Audience Engagement grants, we just launched the Quechua version of State of Fear in Peru. A tour of extraordinary public screenings took us through the Andean regions of Ayacucho and Apurimac, both of which suffered the brunt of the violence in Peru’s 20-year war with Shining Path. The Peruvian Truth & Reconciliation Commission (PTRC), whose work State of Fear is based on, found that 70% of the conflict’s more than 69,000 victims, mostly innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, were Quechua speakers – so we felt it was imperative to make a version of the film dubbed into Quechua, to make the findings of the PTRC available to the audience most affected by Peru’s war on terror in the first feature-length documentary ever translated into Quechua.

With support from the Sundance Documentary Film Program’s first round of Audience Engagement grants, we just launched the Quechua version of State of Fear in Peru.  A tour of extraordinary public screenings took us through the Andean regions of Ayacucho and Apurimac, both of which suffered the brunt of the violence in Peru’s 20-year war with Shining Path.  The Peruvian Truth & Reconciliation Commission (PTRC), whose work State of Fear is based on, found that 70% of the conflict’s more than 69,000 victims, mostly innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, were Quechua speakers – so we felt it was imperative to make a version of the film dubbed into Quechua, to make the findings of the PTRC available to the audience most affected by Peru’s war on terror in the first feature-length documentary ever translated into Quechua.

We call the launch EDMQ 2.0 (for Estado de Miedo Quechua, the Spanish title for State of Fear Quechua) because we created a multi-platform website for the project (http://www.edmquechua.com) designed as a hub to engage human rights activists, victims, educators and youth with the social networking power of Web 2.0, using Twitter text messaging technology, photo sharing, Google maps, blogfeeds, and videoclips from the field. We brought FLIP video cameras, simple devices that allow videoclips to be posted directly to the web, which we gave to key local activists and showed them how to upload the clips to the project site.  The FLIP works as a great human rights communication tool, ideal for recording comments and reactions from audience members right after a screening, and then immediately sharing them on the website. Here is an example of one of the first posts, a shot of the hundreds of people that attended the screening in the central plaza of the village of Socos, where the film was projected onto a huge white sheet hanging from the balcony of the Mayor’s office (more clips can be seen on the project site, in Spanish and Quechua):

Reactions to the Quechua version have been passionate and audiences have enthusiastically embraced the film – the impact of seeing their story in their own language can’t be underestimated.  One of the big surprises was the amount of young people that came to the screenings, university students that expressed a desire to use the film to spread knowledge about Peru’s tragic conflict, a conflict that most of them only experienced as children if at all.  It really feels like the rebirth of State of Fear after its original 2005 release in English and Spanish, and surely is the most important version we’ve made, with the promise of a long life in the Quechua-speaking regions of Peru.  In order to make sure that the EDMQ version has as wide a reach as possible, we are promoting the copyleft concept and encouraging people to make as many copies of the film as they need, and download the screening workshop guide from the project web hub.  Human rights organization COMISEDH, our key collaborator in the Ayacucho area, told audience members that if they brought a blank DVD to their offices they would burn them a copy, and they’ve been going like hotcakes.

The initial screenings of EDMQ have stirred controversy, because for the first time Quechua-speaking audiences are able to absorb the groundbreaking conclusions of the PTRC, and human rights activists are planning to use the film for political organizing, especially around the campaign to create an official Register of Victims to claim reparations from the State.  In its Final Report, released in August 2003, the PTRC concluded that the political parties, military, police, insurgent groups (Shining Path and MRTA) and oblivious bystanders of Lima high society all shared the blame for the human devastation, but that the State because it was supposed to protect and not massacre its citizens, bore a special responsibility to compensate the victims.  This has engendered fierce and relentless opposition from the political parties and the military, accusing the PTRC of being pro-terrorist and unpatriotic, accusations that completely distort the conclusions and spirit of reconciliation that animate the Final Report.  No doubt Peru’s current President, Alan García, and Vice-President, Admiral Luis Giampietri, both of whom are implicated in the prison massacre of El Frontón that occurred during García’s first administration (1985-1990), would like to see the Final Report disappear.  But it’s not going away – the PTRC rewrote the narrative of Peru’s 20-year war on terror, and in Quechua it now has a direct connection to those whose lives were most afflicted by the violence.  The regional government of Ayacucho, dominated by President Garcia’s APRA party, already canceled a screening that had been planned for the main plaza of the city.  But COMISEDH and other human rights activists are undaunted – they are taking State of Fear to small communities throughout the region in an ongoing campaign for truth and justice.

With support from the Ford Foundation we assembled the team of Quechua translators for State of Fear, and produced a 2-DVD set (with Quechua & Spanish versions of the film, a short on the ongoing trial of Alberto Fujimori and other extras, and a workshop guide).  We produced 200 copies to distribute to Peru’s Human Rights Coordinating Committee (Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos), which are being distributed to their 67 member organizations throughout Peru.

Paco de Onís
paco@skylight.is

Paco is the Executive Director at Skylight.

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