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[OPIRG-EVENTS] Ottawa Premiere of "Haunted Land" Wed. April 3, National Archives

You are invited to a special screening of "Haunted Land" with 
discussion to follow. "Haunted Land" is a documentary film based on 
the massacre that took place in Petanac, Guatemala, on July 14, 1982. 
As Paul Knox writes in the attached piece, "In a world drenched with 
factoids, documentary filmmakers keep the torch of history burning. 
Haunted Land is a film about memory and justice."

TOMORROW, Wednesday, April 3 7:00 PM
At the National Archives Auditorium, 395 Wellington
Free admission

[background below]


Mateo Pablo and Mary Ellen Davis to attend the Ottawa Premier of the 
Canadian documentary "Haunted Land" as part of a cross-Canada tour A 

The award-winning and critically acclaimed documentary "HAUNTED 
LAND", by Montreal director Mary Ellen Davis, will be touring across 
Canada starting March 5, along with MATEO PABLO, a native Guatemalan 
now living in Montreal. An active network of Canadian organizations 
has been preparing this tour (for details see 

"Haunted Land," which had a very successful release in Montreal with 
many sold-out shows (four weeks at the ExCentris theatre, Jan.-Feb. 
2002), brings us face to face with memories of the Petanac massacre; 
Mateo Pablo is one of the few survivors (July 14, 1982, 
Huehuetenango, Guatemala).

Mary Ellen Davis and Mateo Pablo will attend the Ottawa premiere, 
Wednesday, April 3rd at 7:00 PM in the National Archives Auditorium, 
395 Wellington Street.

The documentary will go first to Quebec City, then to eight cities in 
Western Canada and to the Maritimes in late April. Additional 
screenings in Montreal are being scheduled. The film has also been 
selected for festivals in Ecuador, India and Uruguay

This documentary is part of the movement against impunity for war 
crimes in Guatemala and elsewhere in the world. Mateo Pablo will be 
sharing his story with citizens across Canada, as he did with 
Montreal audiences.

His tour is all the more relevant given recent events in the news: 
the "war against terrorism" (this is a case of state terrorism that 
has gone unpunished); the Milosevic trial (words such as "massacre," 
"atrocity," "witness" and "forensic expert" are becoming familiar); 
the concept of universal justice (Spain almost obtained the 
extradition of Augusto Pinochet; what can we do in Canada?).

"Haunted Land" was filmed in Guatemala during the exhumations of 
victims of the Petanac massacre: the forensic experts' work uncovers 
evidence of the atrocities. More than 200,000 people were killed or 
disappeared from 1960 to 1996. The vast majority of victims were 
Mayas. Of the 669 massacres that took place during this period, 626 
have been blamed on the Guatemalan government, then supported by the 
U.S. government. The early 1980s were the bloodiest years of violence 
against the civilian population, as documented by Guatemala's 
independent Truth Commission in the 1999 report "Memory of Silence": 
the war was officially against guerrilla insurgency, but the reality 
was terror in the villages and the cities.

Those responsible have never been brought to justice and some are 
still in power. General Efrain Rios Montt, who took power in a coup 
on March 23 1982, is now head of the Guatemalan Congress. Under his 
presidency, the army applied a scorched earth policy. The survivors 
of Petanac are among eleven communities that have taken legal action 
against him and his high command for crimes against humanity, 
genocide, etc.

* * *


Mary Ellen Davis, producer-director of HAUNTED LAND, 
medavis@sympatico.ca <mailto:medavis@sympatico.ca>, tel 514 270-7983 
Cinema Libre, distributors of HAUNTED LAND, clibre@cam.org, tel 514 
861-9030 Social Justice Committee, contact for Mateo Pablo, 
sjc@web.net, tel 514 933-6797

For information on the Ottawa screening, donna.smiley@sympatico.ca or 
tel 231-3849

More information on "Haunted Land": http://www.casaobscura.org/med
Online petition against impunity in Guatemala: 
Guatemala-Canada Solidarity Network: http://www.gcsn.org/

Haunted Land, by Mary Ellen Davis - Canada 2001, 74 minutes Winner of 
the Lanza de Amaru Siona Award 2001, IV Festival de la Serpiente 
(Ecuador) Two paths cross on a descent into Guatemala's past: that of 
Mateo Pablo, a Maya survivor of one of many massacres committed by 
local government troops, and Daniel Hernández-Salazar, a concerned 
Guatemalan artist and photographer. Together they travel to a remote 
site in the highlands where the community of Petanac once stood. The 
bones found there by archaeologists tell a mute story of agony.

"A moving work, and a great testimony to break the silence about the 
genocide in Guatemala." - Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize 

"An unforgettable feature documentary." John Griffin, The Gazette, 
Montreal, Jan. 30 2002

"An incredibly powerful film." Matthew Hayes, Mirror, Montreal, Jan. 24 2002

"Émouvant documentaire." Luc Chaput, Séquences 2001

"Poignant." Louise Blanchard, Journal de Montréal, 16 jan. 2002

"Des questions lancinantes, un refus de l'amnésie." Odile Tremblay, 
Le Devoir, 19 fév. 2002

"À voir." Juliette Ruer, Voir, 24 jan. 2002


On the right to remember: the Petanac massacre

Friday, March 29, 2002 ‚ Print Edition, Page A13

The famous "four freedoms" laid out by Franklin Roosevelt were 
freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear. You could 
come up with many more. My candidate for top of the list is freedom 
of memory.

Most Canadians are lucky enough to enjoy extensive access to their 
own history, with relatively few restrictions. In far too much of the 
world, the past is imprisoned by those it threatens. Efforts to 
recapture the history of war, abuse and injustice are met with 
denial, indifference, scorn or outright terror.

Yet there are people, often survivors of atrocities, who insist on 
the right to remember, and make it their life's business to inscribe 
in our collective memory inconvenient facts and deeds. Such a man is 
Mateo Pablo, who was born in the village of Petanac, in the highlands 
of Guatemala, and who now lives in Montreal.

He was present on July 14, 1982, when government soldiers stormed 
into the village, rounded up the inhabitants and massacred most of 
them, including women and children who died when houses were burned 
with grenades. He hid in the surrounding hills as the slaughter 
proceeded; his wife and two children were among those killed.

At the time, the Guatemalan army was battling leftist guerrillas in 
the highlands, and its tactics included a ruthless terror campaign 
against the Maya Indians living there. Highland dwellers were 
massacred; many were forced to flee their villages. Thousands, 
including Mr. Pablo, fled to Mexico as refugees. The civil war, which 
ended in 1996 after 36 years, claimed at least 200,000 lives.

Mr. Pablo, a 43-year-old Chuj Maya Indian, came to Canada in 1996 
after spending 14 years in Mexico. He tells his story in Haunted 
Land,a low-key documentary completed on a shoestring budget last year 
by Montreal filmmaker Mary Ellen Davis that has been shown recently 
in several Canadian cities. As he says to her: "It is a truth which 
we must clarify and reconstruct, this part of history."

In a world drenched with factoids, documentary filmmakers keep the 
torch of history burning. Haunted Land is a film about memory and 
justice. The recollections of Mr. Pablo and other Petanac survivors, 
delivered in incongruously measured tones, are woven with two other 

One is the exhumation of the victims -- 38 adults and 38 children, 
according to the forensic anthropologists. (One witness, almost 
emotionless, recognizes his father's green trousers lying beside what 
presumably is his skeleton.) The other is that of Guatemalan 
photographer Daniel Hernandez Salazar and the way he uses the 
riveting image of a war victim's shoulder blades, as white wings of 
an angel.

As with other Central American republics torn apart by war during the 
1980s, peace has not brought prosperity to Guatemala. The worst 
drought in a decade has led to more than 125 deaths of children from 
malnutrition, and President Alfonso Portillo is accused of siphoning 
public funds into offshore bank accounts. When the Petanac massacre 
occurred, a general named Efrain Rios Montt was president of 
Guatemala; he had seized power in a coup some months before. Mr. Rios 
Montt now leads the government faction in the country's congress, and 
is said to be the real power behind Mr. Portillo.

I asked Mr. Pablo by telephone how he felt about the massacre nearly 
two decades later. "Those responsible are free and happy, and they're 
still jerking the population around," he said. "So the only thing I 
want is justice -- so that some day these criminals can be tried."


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