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Burden of Peace (2015)

Dutch filmmakers Joey Boink and Sander Wirken helmed this documentary on the efforts of Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz to bring justice to her country during her 2010-2014 term. Some of the problems that she faced were cultural – Guatemalan prosecutors were traditionally unenthusiastic about challenging narco-crime gangs, the nation’s notorious human rights abuses and even domestic violence cases – and other were the result of plain stupidity, most notably the proliferation of misspellings in the national crime database.

Facing hostile opposition from right-wing elements in the government and from media factions that attempted to portray her as a Marxist, Paz y Paz began to make significant progress in the cause of establishing justice. Her greatest accomplishment was bringing former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt to trial for genocide against the indigenous population during the Guatemalan civil war. Despite blatant contempt for the court from the defendant and his attorneys, Montt was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison, although a higher court voided the conviction on a technicality and then forced Paz y Paz from her job before her term expired. Her attempt to seek re-election is unsuccessful, which leaves the impression that Guatemala will be doomed to a future of corruption and unpunished violence.

Paz y Paz’s life story is kept somewhat sketchy – her husband is not mentioned until late in the film – and a greater sense of how the Guatemalan people viewed her work is never entirely clear. Still, this documentary offers an important consideration of the social and political upheaval in a long-overlooked corner of Central America.