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When the Mountains Tremble

The story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú

About This Project

This new, updated version of the 1983 classic on war and social revolution in Guatemala is a vigorous and persuasive documentary. It describes the struggle of the largely Indian peasantry against a legacy of state and foreign oppression. Centered on the experiences of Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, a Maya K’iche indigenous leader, the film knits a variety of forms— interviews, direct address, re-enactment, video transmission, and on the spot footage shot at great hazard— into a wide-ranging and remarkable cohesive epic canvas of the Guatemalan struggle.

Despite the long history of oppression it depicts, the overall effect of the film is exhilarating; with clarity and energy it conveys the birth of a national and political awareness.

When the Mountains Tremble was updated and re-released in 1992 when Rigoberta Menchú won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was released theatrically in 40 U.S. cities and 30 foreign countries. It was broadcast on PBS and received awards at the Sundance Film Festival (Special Jury Award), the American Film Festival (Blue Ribbon Award), and the Havana Film Festival (Grand Coral Award, Best North American Documentary).

Read about the Batzul Update here.

Release date

Jul 14, 1983

Running time



Pamela Yates, Director/Sound Recordist
Peter Kinoy, Producer/Editor
Thomas Newton Sigel, Director/Cinematographer
Alejandro de Onís, Photographer


NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala)
CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador)
America's Watch (now Human Rights Watch)

The story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú.

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