2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: 500 YEARS

500 years500 YEARS
Pamela Yates completes her epic Guatemalan trilogy, which began in 1983.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

The third film in a trilogy about Guatemala, this installment explores the sweeping historical significance of the war crimes trial of General Ríos Montt and the toppling of corrupt president Otto Pérez Molina. Sundance Film Festival veteran Pamela Yates gracefully engages the indigenous Mayan population who experienced genocide at the hands of a long-standing repressive government. Silenced family members and eyewitnesses come forward to share their individual stories with the desire that their underreported, horrific treatment receive the attention it deserves.

Spoken in Spanish and native Mayan languages, 500 YEARS delicately weaves archival footage with new interviews and emotional courtroom scenes to shine light on a growing movement to fend off the systematic aggression toward an underrepresented people. Focusing on the recent events of a country that has suffered for generations at the hands of a ruling elite, the film hails the nation’s citizens banding together on a quest for justice – and emerging as a beacon of hope.

Some Background:
Director:

  • Pamela Yates
    Past Sundance docs:

    GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (2011)
    THE RECKONING: THE BATTLE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (2009)
    POVERTY OUTLAW (1997)
    TAKEOVER (1991)
    NO MORE DISGUISES (short) (1990, producer)
    TEATRO! (1990)
    WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE (1984, Documentary Special Jury Prize)

    Yates’ three earliest credits precede the festival’s official use of the name “Sundance,” including the first film in her Guatemalan trilogy, MOUNTAINS, which chronicled the war waged by the country’s military on the Mayan people. The follow-up, GRANITO, revealed how that first film helped provide evidence for the Mayan survivors claims of genocidal war crimes against the military. The capping film received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program.

Producer:

  • Paco de Onís
    Past Sundance docs:
    GRANITO
    THE RECKONING

    de Onís is the executive director of Skylight Pictures, the production company co-founded by Pamela Yates and Peter Kinoy, and is also Yates’ husband.

Co-Producers:

  • Beatriz Gallardo Shaul
    Past Sundance docs:

    GRANITO

    Gallardo Shaul is a Guatemalan producer with a background in television documentaries in addition to her Skylight work.

  • Raul Estuardo Socon Canel
    This is Socon Canel’s first Sundance credit.

Editor:

  • Peter Kinoy
    Past Sundance docs:

    GRANITO
    THE RECKONING
    POVERTY OUTLAW (director/producer/editor)
    TEEN DREAMS (1995, director/producer/editor)
    TAKEOVER (director/editor)
    TEATRO
    WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE (producer/editor)

Assistant Editors:

  • Daniel Rivera
    This is Rivera’s first Sundance credit.

  • Daniela Quiroz
    Quiroz has edited previous Skylight productions, but this marks her first project at Sundance.

Why You Should Watch:
Yates may have accomplished a first, debuting each film in a documentary trilogy at Sundance, not to mention over more than 30 years. There’s a palpable sense of satisfaction evident in her latest, as justice long deferred finally is meted out, enabled by the courageous testimony of Mayan survivors.

More Info:
Website
Facebook

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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