Evolution of Violence

(Germany, 2012, 77 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In Spanish


Guatemala. The war ended long ago. Though the people want to forget it, the violence continues, and it has spread throughout the society like cancer. Each day, journalists wait to report on the next murder victim, and a social worker helps the relatives of women who have been killed.

The global hunger for cheap resources has been another cause of violence, and a war over bananas has taken on a life of its own. The society suffers from the aftermath of the 36-year civil war. Mass graves are found in the mountains, former rebels mourn their comrades, and a war criminal has nightmares about all the things he’s done. Peace continues to elude Guatemala.

Director’s statement:

Violence pervades life in Guatemala. Just leaving your house involves a real danger of being attacked or becoming a victim of violent crime. Throughout the country, all day and all night. Many citizens have armed themselves, and it doesn’t take much to provoke acts of violence. Human life is not worth much.

While such problems are common in numerous Central and South American countries, the situation in Guatemala is much worse. Furthermore, the country has to contend with the horrible legacy of a 36- year civil war and wholesale killing of its indigenous population. A hike in the picturesque Highlands will take the visitor through a number of villages where descendants of the Maya live on what their modest plots of land produce. When speaking with locals, certain phrases are heard again and again: "Here in our village 50 people were killed and buried back there." And: "They burned them all alive."

Vast numbers of people were murdered here - and the world looked away. While Rwanda, Darfur and Srebrenica caused an international outcry, the fate of Guatemala’s indigenous population aroused little interest.

I asked myself whether there’s some kind of connection between the genocide and the violence of today. Why "Evolution of violence"? When the first Europeans arrived in the New World, they created societies based on extremely unjust social orders. While in many areas entire native populations were exterminated (e.g. in the USA), the descendants of the Maya represent the majority in Guatemala. The unfair and exploitative structures, however, never changed. A society like that is destined to live in continual violence. And all attempts to change this order have been hindered with the aid of the USA and Europe. Guatemala is considered the archetype of a banana republic. This term designates countries where banana exporters are so powerful that they are in fact in control. Whoever opposes their interests is often simply liquidated. Bananas symbolize a world order turned upside down, in which the majority sweats and slaves to create wealth for a small minority. In this film bananas also serve to create a link back to Europe.

In my opinion Guatemala provides an example of a global ideology according to which economic exploitation is veiled by cynical political rhetoric. The film shows archival footage of a speech given by Ronald Reagan. By replacing the word "Communism" with "terrorism" and, in a different clip, switching "bananas" to "oil," the spectator is brought to the armed conflicts of our time. "Evolution of Violence" goes a step further to examine a society after a conflict has ended, or more precisely: to examine a culture of continual conflict. I’m convinced that a similar film could be made about Iraq in 30 years, after the exploitation of a different resource justified by a different political pretext in a different part of the world has come to an end, when the Iraqis are finally left to themselves, all the TV cameras are gone, and the violence has taken on its own life.