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POV's 'Granito: How to Nail a Dictator' Reveals a Documentary Film Colliding With History in a Quest for Justice; Film Premieres Thursday, June 28, 2012 on PBS

   

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POV's 'Granito: How to Nail a Dictator' Reveals a Documentary Film Colliding With History in a Quest for Justice; Film Premieres Thursday, June 28, 2012 on PBS

In a Startling Loop of Time and Memory, 'Granito' Shows How a Filmmaker's First Documentary Has Been Instrumental to Indict Guatemalan Ex-dictator Ríos Montt

A Co-production of ITVS; A Co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting

"Granito... doesn't simply relate history; it is also part of history." —Stephen Holden, The New York Times

In January 2012, after 30 years of legal impunity, former Guatemalan general and dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was indicted by a Guatemalan court for crimes against humanity. Decades after the events, he was charged with committing genocide against the country's poor, Mayan people in the 1980s.

Back in 1982, a young first-time filmmaker, Pamela Yates, had used her seeming naiveté to gain unprecedented access to Ríos Montt, his generals and leftist guerrillas waging a clandestine war deep in the mountains. The resulting film, When the Mountains Tremble (1983) revealed that the Guatemalan army was killing Mayan civilians. As Yates notes in her extraordinary follow-up, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, "Guatemala . . . never let me go." When the Mountains Tremble became central to her life again 30 years later when a Spanish lawyer investigating the Ríos Montt regime asked for her help. She believed her first film and its outtakes just might contain evidence to bring charges of genocide under international law.

Peter Kinoy, Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís, the team who made The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court (POV 2009) return to POV with Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, which has its national broadcast premiere on Thursday, June 28, 2012, at 10 p.m., during the 25th anniversary season POV (Point of View) on PBS. POV continues on Thursdays at 10 p.m. through Oct. 18 and concludes its 25th season with fall and winter specials. (Check local listings.) American television's longest-running independent documentary series, POV is the winner of a Special News & Documentary Emmy® Award for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, two International Documentary Association Awards for Continuing Series and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Corporate Commitment to Diversity Award.

Granito spans 30 years and portrays seven protagonists in Guatemala, Spain and the United States as they attempt to bring justice to violence-plagued Guatemala. Among the twists of fate:

  • A 22-year-old Mayan woman, Rigoberta Menchú, the storyteller in When the Mountains Tremble, goes on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and then initiates the court case against General Ríos Montt that eventually leads to the use of Yates' footage as evidence.
  • A guerrilla commander, Gustavo Meoño, who authorized Yates' filming with the insurgents in 1982, becomes a key player in uncovering the mechanisms of disappearances and state terror.
  • Naomi Roht-Arriaza, the young press liaison in Guatemala who helped arrange Yates' filming with the guerrillas in 1982, becomes one of the key international lawyers working on the genocide case.
  • Fredy Peccerelli, the head of the Guatemalan forensic anthropology team assigned to unearth evidence of the vast killings, repeatedly viewed When the Mountains Tremble while growing up.
  • Granito is a film about a film and its remarkable afterlife for a filmmaker, a nation and, most dramatically, as evidence in a long struggle to give a dictator's victims their day in court. It is an inside, as-it-happens account of the way a new generation of human rights activists operates in a globalized, media-saturated world. Granito shows how multiple efforts--the work of the lawyers, the testimony of survivors, a documentary film, the willingness of a Spanish judge to assert international jurisdiction--each become a granito, a tiny grain of sand, adding up to tip the scales of justice.

    Even after Ríos Montt was deposed and a tenuous democracy restored in Guatemala in 1986, he and the generals continued to enjoy wealth, status and freedom to participate in politics. In 1999, a U.N.-sponsored truth commission concluded that genocide had been committed by the government, and that same year President Clinton declared that U.S. support for military forces and intelligence units that engaged in violence and repression was wrong. Even the Guatemalan generals, who claimed that overzealous field commanders were to blame, admitted that crimes had occurred.

    The story might have ended there, had it not been for catalysts demanding change: the growing movement to assert international jurisdiction in cases of human rights abuses, the persistence of activists . . . and the persistence of memory in film. In Yates' When the Mountains Tremble and its outtakes from 1982, Ríos Montt repeatedly guarantees that atrocities could not be taking place because he is in total command. Yet Yates' recorded footage of a military-conducted tour, meant to show a legal war against guerrillas, appears to show the result of a mass murder of unarmed civilians.

    Fast-forward to recent years, when lawyers and plaintiffs were seeking an international indictment in Spain, whose national court has led the way in such cases. This is done only when local courts fail to act, and no one expected much from the Guatemalan judicial system. And then this past January--one year after Granito's premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival--Ríos Montt was indicted in Guatemala for genocide, in what can only be described as a stunning precedent for that country.

    Granito is a complex, generational story of crime and punishment and also a historical thriller whose last chapter is yet to be written. Like its prequel, When the Mountains Tremble, Granito could very likely become a part of the historic memory of Guatemala.

    A companion transmedia project, Granito: Every Memory Matters (www.granitomem.com) has been created as an online intergenerational, interactive public archive of memories intended to expose further the history of the Guatemalan genocide.

    "When the Mountains Tremble was banned in Guatemala for 20 years," says Yates. "When we were finally allowed to show the film in 2003, we learned that it had already been shown thousands of times clandestinely. People told us, 'We wouldn't begin a resistance meeting without first showing the film.' And an international lawyer who was in the audience at that first public screening in 2003 asked for our help.

    "Fortunately, we still had the outtakes," she continues. "Paco, Peter and I had stored cans of 16mm film and the typewritten transcripts for years: first at a factory in Brooklyn and then at an abandoned airplane hangar in New Jersey. As the forklift with our old materials was lowered, we all gasped as the memories flooded back and a new journey began. This is what lit the spark for Granito.

    "Granito is a love letter to the next generation of documentary filmmakers, living proof of the importance of documenting the injustices of the world. In 1983, I had hoped that my first film would help turn public opinion against the U.S. policy of backing the Guatemalan dictatorship, but that didn't happen. So Granito is also a film about second chances."

    Granito: How to Nail a Dictator is a production of Skylight Pictures.

    About the Filmmakers:

    Pamela Yates (Director)

    Pamela Yates was born and raised in the Appalachian coal-mining region of Pennsylvania but ran away at 16 to live New York City. She is a co-founder, with Peter Kinoy, of Skylight Pictures, a New York City based company dedicated to creating films and advanced digital media that raise awareness of human rights issues. Four of Yates' films as a director, When the Mountains Tremble, Poverty Outlaw, Takeover and The Reckoning (POV 2009) have been nominated for Grand Jury Prizes at Sundance. When the Mountains Tremble won Sundance's Special Jury Award in 1984. Her film State of Fear: The Truth about Terrorism, has been translated into 47 languages and broadcast in 154 countries, and won an Overseas Press Club Award. Yates received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the making of Granito. She has also directed the development of the transmedia project Granito: Every Memory Matters.

    Paco de Onís (Producer)

    Paco de Onís grew up in several Latin American countries and is multi-lingual. In addition to producing Granito, he helped launch the companion multimedia project Granito: Every Memory Matters. He also produced The Reckoning (POV 2009), including IJCentral, an interactive audience-engagement initiative promoting global rule of law, developed at the BAVC Producers Institute in 2008. Prior to that, de Onís produced State of Fear, about Peru's 20-year war on terror based on the findings of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as documentaries for PBS (On Our Own Terms with Bill Moyers) and National Geographic (Secrets from the Grave). Before working in television, he organized music festivals in South America and the Caribbean, renovated and operated the Cameo Theater in Miami Beach and owned and operated a tapas tavern in a 500-year-old colonial house in Cartagena, Colombia. He is a partner at Skylight Pictures.

    Peter Kinoy (Editor)

    Peter Kinoy's roots in social activism go deep. His father, Arthur Kinoy, was a constitutional lawyer who co-founded the Center for Constitutional Rights with William Kunstler and Morty Stavis. Kinoy, along with long-time collaborator and Skylight Pictures partner Pamela Yates, specializes in long-form documentaries about human rights and the quest for justice. He produced and edited When the Mountains Tremble, which won a Special Jury Prize at the first Sundance Film Festival in 1984. Kinoy's other credits include Takeover, an inside look at homeless activists, and Teen Dreams (co-produced with Ilan Ziv), which pioneered self-documentation with small-format cameras. With Yates, Kinoy made Poverty Outlaw and The Reckoning. He teaches and mentors emerging filmmakers at City College of New York, Columbia University, Casa Comal in Guatemala and the International School of Film and Television in Cuba. He is a founder of The Media College of the University of the Poor in the U.S. He lives in New York City.

    Credits:
    Producer/Executive Producer: Paco de Onís
    Director: Pamela Yates
    Editor: Peter Kinoy
    Director of Photography: Melle van Essen
    Composer: Roger Clark Miller

    Running Time: 86:46

    POV Series Credits:
    Executive Producer: Simon Kilmurry
    Co-Executive Producer: Cynthia López
    VP, Production & Programming: Chris White
    Series Producer: Yance Ford
    Coordinating Producer: Andrew Catauro

    Awards and Festivals:

    • Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival, 2011
    • Opening Night film, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, New York, 2011
    • Jury Grand Prize, Politics on Film Festival, Washington, D.C., 2011
    • Best Creative Documentary, Paris International Film Festival, 2011
    • Peace and Reconciliation Prize, Geneva International Human Right Film Festival, 2011
    • Founders Award, Traverse City Film Festival, 2011

    For a complete list of screenings, visit http://www.granitofilm.com/.

    * * * *

    The Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy® Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on PBS. ITVS was created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television. More information about ITVS can be obtained at www.itvs.org. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

    Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) is a nonprofit organization funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. LPB's mission is to support the development, production, post-production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural television that is representative of Latino people or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. By acting as a minority consortium, LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community throughout the United States. Visit www.lpbp.org.

    Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and beginning its 25th season on PBS in 2012, the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today's best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 325 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide and has a Webby Award-winning online series, POV's Borders. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today's most pressing social issues. Visit www.pbs.org/pov.

    Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the desJardins/Blachman Fund and public television viewers. Funding for POV's Diverse Voices Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.

    POV Digital (www.pbs.org/pov)

    POV's award-winning website extends the life of our films online with interactive features, interviews, updates, video and educational content, as well as listings for television broadcasts, community screenings and films available online. The POV Blog is a gathering place for documentary fans and filmmakers to discuss films and get the latest news.

    POV Community Engagement and Education (www.pbs.org/pov/outreach)

    POV's Community Engagement and Education team works with educators, community organizations and PBS stations to present more than 600 free screenings every year. In addition, we distribute free discussion guides and standards-aligned lesson plans for each of our films. With our community partners, we inspire dialogue around the most important social issues of our time.

    American Documentary, Inc. (www.amdoc.org)

    American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.

    Contacts:

    POV Communications: 212-989-7425. Emergency contact: 646-729-4748

    Cathy Fisher, cfisher@pov.org; Cynthia López, cfisher@pov.org

    POV online pressroom: www.pbs.org/pov/pressroom

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