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Rebellious, artistic, radical truth tellers

above photo: Rigoberta Menchú on screen at the sold out 40th anniversary screening of  When the Mountains Tremble during the Woodstock Film Festival, Orpheum Theatre, Saugerties, NY

In these turbulent times we dearly miss Ben Ferencz, who died earlier this year at 103. Ben was a life-long human rights defender and a Nuremberg prosecutor who never stopped advocating for peace. Ben believed that law, not war, was the ultimate answer to justice for atrocities, and became a leader of the movement to form the International Criminal Court.

He said:

“If it’s naive to want peace instead of war, better make sure they call me naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace I don’t see they’re naive, I see they’re stupid; stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm…I am naive?! That’s insane.”

As a human rights media organization, we go forward with Ben’s values in mind.

When the Mountains Tremble Turns 40 

The screening was sold out, the Mayans of the US diaspora were there, the lights went down, an intergenerational audience held their breath as the film rolled and a 40 year younger Rigoberta Menchú began her story–larger than life, she dominated the beautifully renovated, historic Orpheum Theatre in Saugerties, NY at a special event during the Woodstock Film Festival.

From When The Mountains Tremble, photo: Jean-Marie Simon

And so begins the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of When the Mountains Tremble, which will continue through 2023-2024 in festivals, schools and cinemas around the world. Meira Blaustein the Founder/Director of the Woodstock Film Festival remarked,  “The heroic documentation of the war in Guatemala between the government and the revolutionary groups is still relevant today, with global implications across countries and continents.” 

Afterwards Maya Tz’tujil artist/activist Clemente Sajquiy Ramirez and Guatemalan sociologist (and Skylight team member) Vaclav Masek joined me on stage to speak about Guatemala today. There was never enough time and we spilled out onto the sidewalks of Saugerties animatedly talking well into the sunny autumn afternoon.

If you’d like to schedule a screening of When the Mountains Tremble email us at

Set Hernandez’s unseen 

Director Set Hernandez and Pedro with their film unseen at the Woodstock Film Festival

How do you make a film, in itself a visual medium, from the perspective of a blind, undocumented immigrant? We’ve never experienced a film like unseen before.

It’s a wildly original multi-year labor of love by one of cinema’s most innovative emerging creators, Set Hernandez.

As mentors, Paco and I had the pleasure of working together with Set during the inaugural class of the Woodstock Film Festival Filmmaker’s Residency / Incubator Lab in 2021.

Of course this was just a granito de arena, our small contribution to Set and unseen.

No one who meets Set and takes a moment to gain insight into his thinking, will ever forget him. Many support him.

unseen is now on the international film festival circuit and will premiere on POV (PBS) in 2024 #UnseenFilmPBS. Upcoming screenings include DOC NYC’s Fall Series on Nov. 10, a DOC NYC panel discussion Nov. 12, and a theatrical run in New York City at DCTV Nov. 17-24.

Join us at American Documentary’s Gala, Nov. 7 in Brooklyn

Going to the Emmys with POV and Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. POV is American Documentary’s longest running independent documentary series’ broadcast on PBS. (photo: Skylight)

One of our principal values at Skylight is more community, less competition. And this year’s AmDoc gala dedicated to embracing diversity in American storytelling strengthens this very notion. We firmly believe that in fortifying our community of rebellious, artistic, radical, and unorthodox truth tellers we will make better films and contribute to the world we want to live in. That’s why Paco and I joined the Host Committee for AmDoc’s event. Please consider purchasing a ticket to the gala specially priced  for our community of filmmakers. November 7th. (Read our entire letter here).

Pamela Yates

Pamela Yates is an award-winning film director and the co-founder of Skylight, a not-for-profit media organization that for over 35 years has combined cinematic arts with the quest for justice to inspire the defense of human rights. Skylight’s films and programs strengthen social justice movements and catalyze collaborative networks of artists and activists.

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