19 Sep CONVERSATION WITH IZABEL ACEVEDO: HOW A GUATEMALAN FILM FESTIVAL IS BRINGING “THE CITY WHERE WE LIVE TO THE COUNTRY WHERE WE WERE BORN”
Pamela Yates: Why did the Colectivo Guatemala Florecerá decide to organize a film festival around the theme of Filming Justice: Memory & Genocide in Guatemala?
Izabel Acevedo: Talking about the transitional justice processes in Guatemala seems like a good starting point to talk about our country. The quest for justice revives the past, and the past contains important information about the present which helps us resolve, redefine and rethink the future.
You can not talk about present day Guatemala without knowing what happened during the war, and what’s more understanding the causes of that war. The great challenges facing Central America today — the environmental crisis, human rights and environmental defenders’ assassinations, and uncontrolled extractive industries, are all linked to that history.
PY: What is the Colectivo Guatemala Florecerá and where is it based?
IA: The Colectivo Guatemala Florecerá (Guatemala Will Bloom) was formed in New York City in 2018 as a result of a series of events organized in the city beginning in 2015 to bring attention of what was happening in Guatemala. The collective seeks to maintain an active link with Guatemala through art, activism, and meet-ups like “Family Afternoons,” a monthly space to share artistic, social and community work. Also, our annual Filming Justice festival seeks to put together and present films that speak in depth about the search for justice in the Central American region.
PY: How would you describe this generation of the Guatemalan diaspora? How is the connection maintained with Guatemala from New York and other locations in “The North”?
IA: The generation of Guatemalans and those of us in NYC is, from my point of view, very interesting. Many of us are artists, promoters, journalists, creators of something personal and unique. At the same time we have to deal with life like any other person in the city. But when we get together, it feels like we’re sharing a meal at our aunt’s house, where we talk about what’s happening politically in Guatemala.
We migrate to the United States for different reasons. For some of us, it’s the privilege of choice. For others, we were brought here as children and other times, it was the lack of job opportunities that has brought us here. For almost all of us, the thought of returning to the repression in Guatemala is unbearable.
The meeting up here with the Mayans from Guatemala is fabulous. There exists greater equality and respect for our differences. The Mayans here are able to highlight and cultivate their great cultural heritage freely, independently and in solidarity with other [non-indigenous] cultures, as they should be able to do in Guatemala.
Our generation has been resisting. We want to believe in justice along with hope. Despite the sadness of winter here and missing our November 1st Day of the Dead celebrations with kites or fiambre, we have the joy of getting together and appreciating each other without the great barriers of class and race that are exist in our country.
PY: How is the Collective working with CUNY’s Mesoamerican Studies Department?
IA: We worked with the Mesoamerican Studies Department at CUNY in some of our previous events, specifically one of our “Family Afternoons” where we invited a member of the department to speak after one of the films we screened. It was there that we met Lily Quiroz and the idea to invite them to collaborate was born.
Lily immediately saw the potential of a thematic film festival. Together we developed the ideas that makes “Filming Justice” something special.
PY: Why a film festival? What do you hope to achieve?
IA: Cinema has great educational, emotional, empathic reach and we discovered that a thematic film festival is a great way to deal with a topic in depth. With this year’s selections we want to bring the city where we live to the country where we were born. We want to generate interest in the justice processes and social struggles that occur in our region and understand the root causes of Central American migration.
“Filming Justice: Memory and Genocide in Guatemala” is going on now in New York City and runs through September 27. Information about the movies, hours and locations of screenings can be found here.
Pamela Yates is the co-founder of Skylight and its Creative Director. She directed “When the Mountains Tremble” (Tuesday, Sep. 24 at the People’s Forum at 6pm); “Granito: How to Nail A Dictator,” (on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at the People’s Forum at 6pm); and “500 Years” (Thursday, September 26 at the Bula Center for Arts and Culture at 6pm). Pamela will be present for discussions following all three screenings.
Featured image: Izabel Acevedo filming “El Buen Cristiano” with Francisco Chávez, one of the protagonists, in Nebaj, Guatemala.