500 YEARS — Documentary Review

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pamela yates 500 years poster500 Years is the third and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary three-film documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, The Resistance Saga, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with it’s companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them.

To be more specific, footage from the trilogy’s first film, When the Mountains Tremble (1983), was actually used as forensic evidence in the international prosecution and conviction of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt for crimes against humanity in 2013. Additionally, this film brought to international attention the heroic human rights activism of Rigoberta Menchu, who was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her leadership of Mayan resistance to the extreme abuse perpetrated by the Guatemalan government.

The trilogy’s second film, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, reveals how prosecutors built their case against Montt and the trial.

500 Years brings us up to date, while setting the long-standing struggle into the ongoing context of historical exploitation and human rights abuses. This may be the final film in Yates’ trilogy, but it’s clear that the struggle for human rights goes on.

The key characters In all three documentaries are women. Most famous among the women leaders is Rigoberta Menchu, whose human rights activism, demands and achievements were brought to international attention in  Yates’ first film, eventually leading to Menchu receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Made by a woman, featuring women as movers of mountains, 500 Years exemplifies movies matter and can make a difference in our social and political milieu. The film is a sobering cautionary tale that is very relevant to our current political situation.

Film Details:

Title: 300 Years
Director: Pamela Yates
Release Date: July 12, 2017
Running Time: 105 mins.
Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
Locations: Guatemala, Spain, USA
Language: English and Spanish with subtitles
Production Company: Skylight Pictures
Official Website

EDITOR’SNOTE: 500 Years is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week (#MOTW) for July 21-28

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