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‘Burden Of Peace’ Movie Review – is one of the centerpieces of this year’s festival

‘Burden Of Peace’  Movie Review – is one of the centerpieces of this year’s festival

Burden of Peaceburden of peace

Burden Of Peace
Written & Directed by Joey Boink & Sander Wirken
Netherlands/Guatemala/Spain, 2015

One of the centerpieces of this years London Human Rights Film Festival is the domestic premiere of Burden Of Peace – a behind the scenes, four years in the making biography of activist turned Guatemala Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz. Following the first national democratic elections after the signing of the civil war seize-fire in 1996 the documentary begins with Paz y Paz swearing the oath of office in 2010,  a period when the country is blighted by gang violence and an apathetic police force. Shadows of the countries violent past still hang heavy over the populace, most notoriously the crimes of the military regime who embarked on a programme of genocide against the indigenous population thirty years ago. Seizing land and geographical assets under the aegis of communist subversion, the disappeared and missing still bleed raw in the countries psyche.

Following her four year term Paz y Paz commits her office to rigorously prosecute current and past crimes,  regardless of ethnic affiliation or social class, treating all citizens as equally deserving of justice. As the first woman in the position some of the public comments made by her opponents to disparage her are jaw-dropping, alongside the blatant sexism her political convictions are also slanderously questioned, from opponents who continue to peddle misdirection and untruths in order to maintain the stagnant status quo. The four year filming period capture a unique insight into revelatory moments for Paz y Paz and her country, including the trial of the notorious General José Efraín Ríos Montt, the election of former intelligence chief Otto Pérez Molina and the near simultaneous prosecution of the practitioners of the horrific Dos Erres massacre. Harrowing in the extreme and difficult to watch is the footage of the survivors tearfully recanting their witness to a litany of terror of slaughter, a war-crime that has not diminished for them and still remains vivid after the intervening thirty five years.

Slowly a picture emerges of an incredibly brave and tenacious public servant, plagued with death threats and the indifference of the pampered elite, speared with character assassination pieces hindering her progress from a corpulent and supplicant press. Directors Joey Boink and Sander Wirken organically take a discreet, measured approach to the material and intersperse the silently observed events with a scattering of contextual interviews, giving the viewers the necessary social and political history to assess the import of the social and legal developments they are recording. Although the finale sees a final frustrating suppression of Paz y Paz’s righteous journey one still senses that definitive progress has been made and prosecutions prosecuted, as the wider struggle for justice and healing continues.

For more information on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, please visit: