The Echo of Pain of the Many

(Guatemala, GB, USA, 2011, 94 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In Spanish, English with English subtitles


IA moving, thought-provoking and rare documentary by a Latin American woman, recording her return from exile and into the still dangerous and volatile political environment of contemporary Guatemala. Where over the course of four years, writer-director Ana Lucia Cuevas discovers, through the archived records of the perpetrators of the crimes themselves, the involvement of her own government and foreign Intelligence Services in the abduction, torture and murders of her brother and his young family.

Living abroad in exile for over a decade, it was only in 1999 that Cuevas found out her brother had in fact been killed three months after he was kidnapped. She learned this through the release of an astonishing document—the so-called "death squad dossier" listing with cold bureaucratic precision all the alleged subversives whom the military had abducted, with cryptic annotations marking those who had been killed.

The film, documenting Cuevas’s return to Guatemala to investigate her brother’s case and to hear others’ stories, is at heart a moving exploration of how Guatemalans have coped in the aftermath of unspeakable horrors. We hear harrowing testimony from survivors of the military’s so-called “scorched earth” campaigns—brutal massacres of indigenous communities and destruction of their homes, rendering many Guatemalans starving refugees in their own country. And we learn of the widowed women in the city who relied on each other for strength as they raised infants alone, not knowing what fate had befallen their husbands. Their demands for answers from the state fell on deaf ears at best, and at worst were met with further repression.

"A powerful, personal story of state-sponsored terror in Guatemala and the lasting effects it has had on families, “The Echo of Pain of the Many” is a timely testament to the brave, untiring efforts of Guatemalans to demand justice and dent the country’s long-standing veil of impunity." Guatemala Solidarity Network