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Peru Uprising Targets Inequality

above photo: Vera Lentz, from our film State of Fear

We entered 2023 feeling trepidation about the upcoming SolidariLabs Peru we had been planning and preparing for over the past year, selecting a cohort of Peruvian filmmakers and activists through a national open call. We watched the political and social turmoil engulfing the Andean nation, with protesters being attacked by government forces, with more than 50 killed as of this writing. Yet another manifestation of anger bursting in Latin American societies living in extreme economic and social injustice conditions. 

Members of our Skylight team from Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru came together last week to struggle with the decision of whether to go forward with SolidariLabs Peru or postpone. Our Colombian colleagues brought deep insights as they recently went through national upheavals that took months to settle down. During the turmoil, they were focused on taking to the streets or participating by supplying food and succor to the protesters. The situation in Peru was looking similar, and not a good time to have an isolated immersive retreat. Everyone agreed that we needed to postpone and, in the interim, offer a virtual space for the selected Peruvian participants to engage and share strategies with the broader SolidariLabs and VIVX networks of human rights and environmental defenders stretching through Mexico, Central America, and Colombia.

It is a strange and sad feeling to watch the convulsions in Peru today, considering our film State of Fear (2005) tells a story of the findings of the groundbreaking Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is in many ways reminiscent of what’s happening now. Many of their recommendations addressing structural inequities weren’t followed so we felt it was timely to share State of Fear freely, available in Quechua, Spanish, English and French, now through February 15th. The film asks, “How can an open society balance demands for security with democracy?” It dramatizes the human and societal costs a democracy faces when it embarks on a war against terror, a war potentially without end, all too easily exploited by unscrupulous leaders seeking personal political gain.

Welcoming Eduardo González to the Skylight Board

We’re pleased to announce that Peruvian sociologist, writer, professor, and transitional justice expert Eduardo González has joined the Skylight Board of Directors. We first met Eduardo high in the Andes of Peru while researching how to tell the story of the historic Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s investigation into their 20-year war (1980-2000).

Little did we know that he would go on to help us create our films State of Fear and The Reckoning, and advise us on Granito and 500 Years. We value his profound connection to the cinematic arts and storytelling in relation to the strengthening of human rights worldwide.

Welcome, Eduardo!

Celebrating Alex Wilde’s service on the Skylight Board

We also share gratitude to longtime Skylight Board of Directors member Alex Wilde, who joined the board created when we converted Skylight into a nonprofit organization in 2013. Alex decided to step down from  the board in 2022. We now celebrate his invaluable service and insights over nine years by naming him our first Emeritus board member (we want to keep him close!). But Alex’s relationship with Skylight began long before he joined the board.

Pamela and I met Alex while we were editing State of Fear in 2004, when he had just transitioned from being Director of the Ford Foundation Andean Region and Southern Cone office to Vice-President of Communications for the Ford Foundation. His deep knowledge of the human rights movement in Peru, which he had supported with multiple grants from the Andean Region office, contributed greatly to our understanding of the 20-year armed conflict that had roiled Peru and was the focus of the work of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. From that initial exchange of ideas, a fast friendship was born, and Alex became a great advisor and constructive critic of all of our films since.  

Skylight Familia

(left-right) Tzima (Maximiliano Poma Sambrabo), Alcalde Indígena of Cotzal, presenting Dr. Batz with a plaque of recognition for his work. Photo courtesy Dr. Batz.

Our longtime collaborator Dr. Giovanni Batz has just published the book La Cuarta Invasion, examining the movement in Cotzal, Guatemala, against the construction of the Italian corporation-funded Palo Viejo hydroelectric plant between 2008-2012.

In Cotzal, people refer to the arrival of these foreign companies and megaprojects as the “fourth invasion,”  which is distinguished from three previous invasions: first, the Spanish invasion and colonization, second, the creation of the plantation economy between the 1870s and 1930s, and, third, the genocide carried out by the State during the civil war (1960-1996). The book (in Spanish) can be downloaded on AVANCSO’s website.

Dr. Batz’s research can be found here, and you can follow him on Twitter at @gio_batz. Dr. Batz is featured in our short film Tichajiil_Good Life, which imagines an Indigenous future. 

Paco de Onís

Paco is the Executive Director and Executive Producer of Skylight, a human rights media organization dedicated to advancing social justice through storytelling by creating documentary films and media tools that can applied in long-term strategies for positive social change.

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