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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
PRESS RELEASE - March 28, 2002 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF GENOCIDE IN GUATEMALA
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,
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
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,
* * *
Mary Ellen Davis, producer-director of HAUNTED LAND,
firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>, tel 514 270-7983
Cinema Libre, distributors of HAUNTED LAND, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 514
861-9030 Social Justice Committee, contact for Mateo Pablo,
email@example.com, tel 514 933-6797
For information on the Ottawa screening, firstname.lastname@example.org or
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
By PAUL KNOX
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
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
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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