FILM: Sand in the Gears of Impunity


Sarah Weber discusses the film “Granito de Arena: How to Nail a Dictator,” a documentary about those struggling to end impunity in Guatemala.

They tortured; they murdered; they raped. Their victims included men and women, seniors and newborn babies, activists and priests, leaders and poor peasants; everyone was suspected of being subversive. The killers? The U.S.-backed Guatemalan military. Thirty-six years of civil war and terror left 200,000 people dead, of whom 50,000 were “disappeared.” State forces and related paramilitary groups were responsible for 93 percent of these deaths. Their scorched earth strategy, targeting primarily Mayans living in the countryside, resulted in 626 massacres and the destruction of 440 villages in what the United Nation’s Historical Clarification Commission called a genocide. How does a country recover from such a devastating experience? In “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator,” director Pamela Yates tries to answer that question as she interweaves the stories of 10 Guatemalans and foreign professionals who have been working together, each adding their granito de arena (grain of sand) to the struggle for justice in Guatemala.

Sarah Weber
Publication date: 
August 18, 2011
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article