El Salvador and Latin America Films

The period of the 1970s and 80s was a fertile one for social change across Latin America. Revolution and violence gripped Nicaragua and Chile; and Argentina was engaged in a 'dirty war' which civilians are still trying to unearth the truth of. Civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador, and the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero as he pleaded for peace left much of Latin America in turmoil and political relations with America tense. The smaller list of films on this context often focus on the quest for truth and reconciliation, and the efforts to move on from decades of instability, violence, and political oppression.



Alonso’s Dream (2000) Alonso lives in the Highlands of Chenalho, deep in the heart of Chiapas, Mexico. As a Mayan lay priest, he plays a leading role in his village, a village torn by a conflict that has violently split his community. Since 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army, a guerrilla army comprised predominantly of indigenous Mayan Indians, has been involved in a tense military standoff with the Mexican government. The Zapatistas are demanding equal distribution of wealth, land and power for the indigenous population. Alonso's quest to bring to justice those responsible, at both the highest and lowest levels, is documented in this film. His calls for non-violent solutions, in spite of repeated death threats, and his relationship with Miguel Chanteau, a French missionary and outspoken critic of the Mexican government who was exiled in 1998, are also explored. (Directed by by Danièle Lacourse and Yvan Patry.)

Americas in Transition (1982) provides a concise and fast-paced history of the volatile forces that rocked Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the 1970s and 1980s. Drawing on interviews with the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, former CIA director Lyman Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Murat Williams, and Maryknoll missioner Peggy Healy, the film examines the roots of dictatorship, attempts at democracy, communist influences, and the U.S. role in Latin American politics. (Directed by Obie Benz.)

Awakening from Sorrow: Buenos Aires 1997 (2010) is about a crucial moment in history when the grief of young Argentines – whose parents disappeared and were tortured and killed during the ‘Dirty War’ (Argentina’s dictatorship organized mass killings of civilian dissidents during the 1970s until 1983) erupts into public action, and becomes a cornerstone for social movements from South America to Serbia. Until these young people began to organize and demand explanations from their government, the predominant coping strategy had been to pretend that the missing were still alive. This film documents the power to transform pain into action to lift the veil of repression that has gripped a generation of young people. (Directed by John Knoop and Karina Epperlein.)

Denial (1995) Until December 11, 1981, El Mozote was just a tiny hamlet, nestled deep in the mountains of El Salvador. Eleven days later, its one thousand people, mostly children, were dead. Surrounding villages were razed. When the elite army battalion that executed the massacre returned to base, its soldiers were sworn to silence. For the next decade, the Salvadoran and U.S. governments put up a wall of denial. Beyond the overgrown ruins of El Mozote, the official "truth" prevailed. (Directed by Daniele Lacourse & Yvan Patry.)

Lucanamarca (2009) Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a Maoist group had by 1980 developed an armed guerrilla presence in the Peruvian countryside. Aiming to overthrow the government, Shining Path militants attempted to recruit Quechuan peasants to join their struggle. When Shining Path were rejected by the peasants the guerrilla movement launched a campaign of violence throughout the Andean region, most notably the April 1983 massacre in the farming village of Santiago de Lucanamarca. Some 20 years later, Lucanamarca shows the arrival of Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to exhume the bodies of the victims in order to establish their identities and causes of death. But the commission's efforts also reawaken old enmities among some of the villagers. (Directed by by Carlos Cárdenas & Héctor Gálvez.)

People Power (1989) is the first comprehensive exploration of the use of active non-violence as a means to achieve social reforms. By focusing primarily on the fall of Pinochet in Chile, the Palestinian intifada, and Cory Aquino's "People Power" revolution in the Philippines, the film demonstrates how Filipinos jogged to gain political momentum, or how a small concession by Pinochet - 15 minutes on government television - became the vehicle to rally a nation around a simple slogan: the word "no." With insight from Gene Sharp, a leading expert on non-violent struggles, People Power weaves together personal and intellectual odysseys into a dramatic and thought provoking program. (Directed by Ilan Ziv.)

Romero (1989) The powerfully explicit account of a savage dictatorship that massacred and tortured hundreds of thousands of people. He spoke the truth in a country torn apart by social injustice. He stood for human rights during an era of shocking violence and torture. But the brutal dictatorship chose not to listen and he was assassinated for his beliefs. This is Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador’s courageous - and true - story. (Directed by John Duigan.)

Salvador (1986) Portrays the outspoken American photojournalist Richard Boyle in 1980 during the civil war in El Salvador. Salvador recounts the conflict between the peasant revolution and the US-backed death squads in El Salvador in the early 1980s as seen through the eyes of American journalist Richard Boyle. Telling unpalatable truths condensed into intense fiction, Typical of the director’s confrontational style, the real Boyle wrote the source material for the screenplay. (Directed by Oliver Stone.)

Welcome to Colombia (2003) Two million displaced persons, 35,000 murders per year, 70,000 mines scattered all over the country, a kidnapping every ten minutes: Colombia is the theatre of one of the most tragic wars of our time.  InWelcome to Colombia, Villar travels across her country - through territory held by guerrillas, paramilitaries and government forces - during the course of Colombia's 2002 presidential election. Everywhere she finds people who are tired of the fighting and the blaming, and who simply want peace. (Directed by Catalina Villar.)

Film synopses and descriptions for Romero and Salvador sourced from Amazon UK (http://www.amazon.co.uk/). Synopsis for Awakening from Sorrow, sourced from IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/). 

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