3. Indigenous Representations

September 11: 
FILM: When the Mountains Tremble (screening in Student Union Theater)
Lecture by Dr. Rigoberta Menchú

Talk by Rigoberta Menchú will be streamed and will reside online at the address below should anyone wish to access it:

http://mediasite.dl.uconn.edu/Mediasite/Play/08ef768b71fb46c0aaab956cc41ade391d

September 13:
READ: Longo, Teresa. “When the Mountains Tremble: Images of Ethnicity in a Transcultural Text.” Hispanic Issues 15 (1997): 77 – 91.

A few questions to help you prepare your posts for this topic. Remember these are only suggestions. You are free and encouraged to take your own spin on the topic:

  • What is Rigoberta Menchú’s role within the documentary beyond simply being one of the (main) narrator(s)? Why should the viewer trust her as a narrator? What effect does her representation and her delivery have on the objective of the documentary?
  • How are the aesthetics manipulated in the documentary? What is the purpose behind this?
  • Teresa Longo states that the “focus [of the documentary] is more transcultural than ethnocentric and objectifying (77).” Do you agree that filmmakers, Yates, Siegel, and Konoy, are successful?
  • A documentary produced by and one can assume for a U.S. audience gives a very specific representation of an indigenous Latin American community (and woman). What are some possible repercussions of this documentary being the “image” U.S. audiences takes of Latin America? How does this fit/contradict other representations pervasive of Latinas in mainstream media?
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40 Responses to 3. Indigenous Representations

  1. sorariku says:

    I think that Dr. Rigoberta Menchú who was the main narrator first wanted to say in her own experience that she endure a lot of pain and suffering in her country, Guatemala. Probably, the producer who wanted Menchu to be in the film might have tell her things that weren’t in her story but the way her face was, it shows some pain by remembering her past. There are some people who would like to manipulate Menchu but maybe, Menchu and the producer made a deal with each other to make her story and help the producer make the movie notice around the world.

    It is true that menchu didn’t know a lot of spanish, which is suspicous of how did she learn it. It could be that she learned spanish to communicate to others who speak spanish and make some of her story be heard around the world. Some people will do anything to let their story be heard by other people because they want something to change the view of their suffering and painful live that the person had to go through.

    • charliegrab says:

      I have to agree. The emotions present in Menchu’s narration strengthens the film on the whole. Indeed, her learning Spanish after the fact is somewhat peculiar. However the film as a whole also spoke to me, and I would reccomend it it to anyone!

      • I dont think that it was that strange to a Guatemalan speaking Spanish. If anything is not their Mayan language dying out? Yet I do agree that it is a good film that more people should be knowledgeable about. What I found truly perculiar was that she was also fluent in English. During the presentation she chose to speak in Spanish, but when she realized that her translator was nervous and\or inadequate she starting speaking in English. I wonder how much her not choosing to do her presentation in English is due to uncomfortabily or authenticity?

    • Skylar Smith says:

      Dr. Rigoberta Menchú learned Spanish to help her communicate to the rest of the world. With a translator she would not have been able to get that personal touch she has when giving her speeches. It is true that Menchú does pour out some pain about the suffering she went through while she is talking and telling her stories, but she highlights one important part; that they are survivors, not victims. Although the documentary may portray a lot of stereotypes of Guatemala, you can tell through Menchú’s voice and words that they (Guatemalans) are strong and are the survivors.

      It is important to realize that stereotypes are present every day of our lives. In this documentary it may have generalized a little bit too much but the important part to realize is that we ARE trying to identify them. If you listen to her voice and watch her presence on the documentary, you can look right through the stereotypes shown and see what pain and agony she has gone through. The way she speaks to the camera and the way she looks at the camer shows the viewers how much she really has gone through, which adds a sense of validity to the documentary itself.

      • sorariku says:

        It is true what you say skylar about that she had to learn Spanish, so she can communicate with the world and that Dr. Rigoberta Menchu wasn’t a victim; instead, they survived the injustices of Guatemala’s rich people. It shows that the survivors of the attacks are stronger for surviving the cruelty of the Guatemala army and that Menchu’s people wants their land because that place was their ancestors home, which they don’t want to give it up. Probably, Menchu created this movie with the producer, so she can tell to the Americans to stop sending help to the Guatemala’s army or their is going to be more bloodshed in Guatemala.

      • Mariah Monroe says:

        Skylar I have to agree with you. Menchu does make an important point when saying that despite all, the Guatemalans are survivors. While I was watching the documentary, I could see the pain and hurt in her eyes. I think she did a very good job of narrating the story and explaining exactly what it was like for the Guatemalans living through such a challenging time. I also think Menchu’s ultimate goal was to raise awareness and help fight such injustice, and through this documentary, I think she is doing just that.

  2. yininghe says:

    Pertaining to the fourth question about the image US audiences might have of Latin America after this documentary, I feel that US audiences will have an image of Latin America as a victim. This victimization can lead to several harmful mentalities and practices that will be similar to the White Man’s Burden. I think the one of the main objectives of the film is to evoke sympathy for the Quiche Indians (using very personal narratives, and matching the visual images with Menchu’s verbal images, etc.) By creating emotion in the audience, it might lead to their taking pity on these groups.

    Pity is problematic because it presumes a position of dominance, where the victim or backward civilization requires saving from the dominant party. This might be dangerous in perpetuating the White Man’s Burden or the mindset that Latin Americans need to be ‘saved’ out of their situation. It might even justify foreign intervention.

    Yet, some credit needs to be given to the film where it tries to present different images of Latin American people. The footage of the guerilla groups are instrumental in creating an image of Latin American people being willing and able to fight for themselves. I find it especially interesting that the women are presented as being warriors as well, and that this might have the potential to overturn previous stereotypes of latinas.

    • Kiara Morales says:

      I find it very compelling that you address pity as problematic. During Rigoberta’s lecture, she spoke a lot about how the victim and the victimizer will never see eye to eye. She stressed the importance of the victims getting away from the image of being the victim. I agree that credit should be given to the film, powerful figures of ingenuous people are important to see. Although there are questionable aspects of the film as a whole, it does bring to light a lot of important issues that make us aware of the importance of culture.

      • briannamartone12 says:

        The lecture that she gave really made me think more about how there is not enough light shown on these certain issues outside of the United States. She seemed like such a peaceful lady given what had happened so violently to her and her family. I commend her for speaking globally and trying to briing awareness to what is going on with Human Rights issues in Guatemala. It is important that we are globally aware of these issues. I thought it was interesting that she thought victims should depart themselves from that image. I could only think of how hard it would be to not see ones self as a victim when you have so much being done to those you love as well as yourself. But I would say that no longer viewing yourself as a victim is probably very empowering.

      • alexandriagarry says:

        I agree that the film definitely had some positive qualities in respect to bringing awareness of the culture and problems that Guatemala face. I also think that though their were better, more natural and honest ways for Rigoberta’s story to be told, for it to be widely accepted by an American populous it was affective.

      • alexandriagarry says:

        I agree with both Kiara and Yin on this issue of victimizing the Quiche Indians. I think it is one thing to use sympathy to gain support, but it is an entirely different thing to make a strong and proud culture appear weak and in need of saving.

    • sorariku says:

      Great seeing the important parts of the movie and also talking about that sometimes showing the pitiful side can cause harm to other people and talking about that women in Guatemala who are with the Guerrilas are not separated, they work together as a whole. It is true that some people of Guatemala stills thinks that women are only good at chorus but women can do much more than just doing what the men says in their community.

  3. stephaniegiannoutsos says:

    This documentary definitely portrays a very specific image of a Latin American indigenous woman. Menchu is seen wearing her traditional clothing, speaking in a subordinate manner, and describing how her story tells the story of all the Guatemalan people. Since this is the only image of Latin American people that the U.S. audience is coming in contact with, they may assume that all Latin American woman dress that way, speak that way, and are victims of violence and oppression. This has negative repercussions because it is impossible that Menchu’s story accurately describes the stories of the whole population of Guatemala.

    This coincides with other pervasive stereotypes that are portrayed in mainstream media. For example, The Bronze Screen discussed how Latin men are often seen as criminals or idiots and Latinas are portrayed as extremely provocative or promiscuous. All of these negative stereotypes that evolve from the media are problematic and create unrealistic images in the minds of the U.S. audience.

    • Its interesting to me that you chose to connect the stereotypes depicted in “The Bronze Screen” to Rigoberta’s role in the film; I am not sure how exactly this relates to her portrayal in “When the Mountains Tremble.” Although “The Bronze Screen” does show us stereotypes of latinos a(s) on the big screen, Rigoberta in this film is not exactly a stereotype. The idea that she is representing a group of people, does not necessarily make her their stereotype, but rather their representative. After her exile she took on the role of spokesperson for the Quiche people, but this was only due to the fact that she was the sole Quiche woman outside of their home. Rigoberta had no other choice.

    • rserreti says:

      I completely agree with your opinion. While watching this documentary, I also felt that the indigenous women of Guatemala were portrayed in a certain manner. Because of this, the audience only got a stereotypical view on the women in Guatemala. The audience was not able to see an accurate depiction of what the women as well as the children and men were like in the Guatamalan culture. Like Stephanie said, the documentary makes it very easy for people to make stereotypes on the women of Guatemala.

  4. amandaawyong says:

    In reply to the 4th question, I feel that the portrayal of Rigoberta Menchu is consistent with the Latino narrative in mainstream U.S. media.

    In a part of her narration, she talked about how her father, alongside other men from the village, participated in an uprising because they didn’t want to be controlled any further. However, when they eventually failed in their mission, Menchu said that any hope for change died too. By recounting this, she painted the image of the village women waiting for their men to “free” the village. Later on, when the men failed, the women were helpless and simply stopped hoping for change. It seemed as though women were incapable of a similar uprising, and that their hopes and dreams were attached to another object that they had no power over.

    Of course, this may just be characteristic of the society then, and not be specific to the Latin American women. However, what I’m trying to say is that this portrayal is similar to what we have discussed about modern screen portrayals of Latinas. They are always dependent on their husbands and are pretty helpless on their own. For example, Gloria in Modern Family and Gabrielle in Desperate Housewives basically do nothing to earn their own keep, but depend on their husbands. In the same sense, I thought that Menchu voicing her helplessness drove the point home for me.

    • morgankamm says:

      You made a good point when you said Gloria in Modern Family and Gabrielle in Desperate Housewives basically do nothing to earn their own keep, but depend on their husbands. That upholds the stereotype that many have about how women are only useful for being housewives. The point about Menchu voicing her helplessness makes the stereotype more real, however I do remember that Menchu’s helplessness went along with all guerillas in Guatemala and not just the women. It made it seem like all the guerilas, both men and women, were helpless and had no control over their lives.

      • alexismruiz says:

        Even though that may be a stereotype, it is a real concept for many minority women. Nowadays Latinas are breaking away from that mold but it is still a very prevalent idea is many Latino families. My mother for example is the breadwinner in our household and also has a very dominant personality but this could be for two reasons. One because we are Puerto Rican and therefore are more exposed to American culture as opposed to Dominicans or Colombians. Two because she was a single mother with two children so was forced to achieve the best to increase the future success of her children. Society is very different for Puerto Ricans as compared to other Latinos because of the things that they are predisposed to.

  5. rserreti says:

    While watching this documentary on the indigenous Latin American community and woman, I found that the documentary was very one sided. When watching the documentary, Menchu was only shown and only her struggles were depicted. Because only her struggles were depicted in the documentary, the audience only got a view of what Menchu went through. The audience was not accurately able to see what other indigenous Latin American’s and women went through. Since the audience was not able to see what other indigenous Latin American’s and women went through, they instantly believed that what Menchu went through was what other Latin American’s went through.

    Some possible repercussions of this documentary being the “image” U.S. audiences takes of Latin America is that that what Latin America was like. By only showing Menchu’s struggles, the U.S. audiences only saw what she went through and because of this, the U.S. audiences instantly thought this is what everyone went through in Latin America. As being a part of the U.S. audience, I believed that all Guatamalans were poor and struggling. This fits with other representations pervasive of Latinas in mainstream media because in some media, Latinas are depicted as poor and as people who are struggling.

    • morgankamm says:

      As being a part of the U.S. audience also, I, too would believe that all Guatamalans were poor and struggling after watching this documentary. Also, like you mentioned, since there are Latinas that are depicted as poor and as people who are struggling in some media today, it would enhance that stereotypical view of mine.

      • alexismruiz says:

        Media plays a huge role in what we as Americans believe to be true. It is just like when media tells us that a particular character is “African American or Latina” and he/she is in fact not. We believe it because we have no way of proving otherwise until you research the person. There is no standard look that any particular race has so we (Americans) have become super impressionable by taking what we see or hear at face value.

      • carolynluby says:

        I agree with Alexismruiz, Media does have a large impact on what Americans believe to be real. Menhchus honesty and personal availability shows us that she has nothing to hide, something that National Geographic for example cannot also say. It is more dangerous to give an opinion hiding the facts (until you research the person like you said) that it is to have a woman in front of you letting you take a personal view into her very true and very personal life. If you look up Menchu, you will find facts that she herself already presented the public with. Her full disclosure is impressive and refreshing in a society where today “full disclosure” seems to amount only to two words found in a dictionary.

  6. morgankamm says:

    Rigoberta Menchú’s role within the documentary was to share her story of what life was like growing up as a poor child in Guatemala, and essentially represent all women of Guatemala. Her representation in this documentary was to give the viewers a real life example of how difficult life was in Guatemala at the time for both men and women. It was difficult for the viewers to see her true pain considering the fact that she had to read what she was narrating because her English wasn’t strong, but the viewers could somewhat see her pain in her facial expressions as she read her story. However, such a horrific documentary like this can definitely bring about possible repercussions of this documentary being the “image” U.S. audiences take of Latin America. Viewers could interpret the Latin American community to be a poor and helpless place, which contradicts the way that mainstream media is trying to portray today. Menchú’s role could not possibly represent all Latin American women because they do not all dress, look, and talk like Menchú does. Her ways are very specific and do not correspond to the broad Latin American Indigenous woman we see in media today.

    • Caroline/a Nieto says:

      I agree with the theme of image that you mention in your post. Image is so important, especially when you are trying to make a change or instill emotion into anything. Her image was used to exemplify the everyday Guatemalan and the pain they are enduring. Although, we know, that it is unlikely that they are all like this, the film used the idea of image to burden us with sympathy. Of course it worked because I felt terrible, what happened in Guatemala really is SO sad, and the way the the USA treated Guatemala is worse. I’m glad the film was made and I am glad all these issues were brought to light, and I am glad that the used image to make us aware of issues abroad. It may be an exaggeration, but sometimes exaggerations are needed.

  7. alexismruiz says:

    The image of the Latin American indigenous woman in the film is very specific. The main character narrating is wearing a very traditional outfit with a very limited portrayal of how her story is representative of the bigger picture. Her sole perspective was that of the entire Guatemalan people. Thinking about Latin American people from a personal perspective, I do not think that it was an accurate representation of the people as a whole but with only that to go by, you may fall into that small minding thinking that all Latin American people are the same, therefore they dress, speak, live, and experience the same things. Do all Latin American women go through the same experiences? I think to make that blanket statement would be completely false. Are Latin American women in the United States treated the same as Latin American women in South America? To take it one step further, are all Latin American women in South American treated the same or do the different countries yield different behaviors?

    Machismo is definitely something that I believe is shared among many, if not all Latin American men. But to what extent is her image supported across the board? I think that to say that her story is that of an entire group is highly improbable but I do believe that her story holds a lot of merit. That is the thing with opinions or self-reported stories, no one can tell you you are wrong.

    • Lucia Parisi says:

      I’m glad that you mentioned her outfit. I feel like her outfit was way too overdone. I also feel like the interview seemed scripted, especially because she is speaking Spanish and not her native language. I completely sympathize with her story, but I agree with you when you say that we only see one perspective which is hers. It would have been nice to see what other native perspectives are like.

  8. carolynluby says:

    I think the idea of who the narrator is here cannot be understressed. Rigoberta Menchu gives a heartwreching account of the human rights violations she and her indigenous people experienced under the oppressive military regime in Guatemala. We are asked to pay attention to what ways we as the viewer may be being manipulated by techniques such as lighting, and we are asked if we can trust her as a narrator. Many people would say to be aware of a bias she is trying to impose on us through monotone narrating, dark lighting, personal stories and traditional dress, and would question if her account can be truly believed since it is “subjective”. In America, we are used to seeing documentaries National Geographic style- informational, straightforward, factual, and objective. However, these documentaries are in truth very far from the objective film that they pretend to be. National Geographic has biases just like any other documentary, but its biases are often much less obvious. They have the “Invisible Narrator” a narrator who remains anonymous and therefore does not inform the viewer of any bias they might have in delivering the information they are discussing. This pretend objectivity is the most dangerous of all forms of information giving. The best Objectivity is honest Subjectivity- it is when the narrator is honest with you about who they are, and what potential bias they might bring to the topic through their stories and testimonies. Rigoberta Menchu invites us a viewers to get to know her- and leaves no part of her life off limits from the public. She is honest with the viewer- and that makes a much more valuable documentary than that of the “Invisible Narrator” because it gives the the viewer the information they need to make their OWN decision about the validity of the content of the film .

    • joserfigueroa says:

      @carolyn you make a great point. Menchu allowed the viewers to see her as she told her story. I never really gave much thought to the “invisible narrator” but it changes the feel of the documentary. Not knowing who is speaking gives American documentaries an eerie feeling and forces viewers to believe that what they’re seeing is a honest portrayal. By being in front of the camera, Menchu took away the creepy, ominous feeling and made the documentary real.

    • yininghe says:

      @Carolyn: I love the point you make about how the best objectivity is honest subjectivity. I believe it is quite prevalent in documentary production to present the material as factual, objective, neutral and narrated by an omnipotent narrator who is usually an Anglo male (as heard from the accent.) It is true that we can often forget how we simply accept the ‘truths’ these narrators present to us, and that can be even more dangerous than an obviously subjective narrator telling her personal story, because audiences do not think about it.

      However, there is also another perspective that might slightly contradict your ideas. There’s a more effective quote somewhere, but I can neither remember it or find it. It goes something like this: When we consume non-fiction, we expect to critically think, evaluate and explore arguments, so our mental guard is up. However, when we consume fiction, we allow ourselves to be immersed into another world, and this makes us more susceptible to new ideas or different perspectives (which is also why stereotypes of Latin Americans seem to persist for such a long time.) If we are so absorbed into Menchu’s story like a work of fiction, we might let our guard down and be more predisposed to her arguments, as compared to when we are consuming non-fiction.

      Just some food for thought!

  9. joserfigueroa says:

    Rigoberta Menchú does give a idea of what Latin American women/people are like. She looks very indigenous and poor, and that is not the case for all Latin Americans. This allows people who are not aware of the Guatemalan population to make judgement and continue believing that Latin Americans are not to America’s standards.

    • Skylar Smith says:

      I agree with you on how Menchu gives us an idea of what Latin American people are like but I do not agree with you about how she looks “poor.” We all have our own sets of “standards” and beliefs but one cannot simply state whether one looks poor or not because they are basing it off of their own stereotypes and/or beliefs. The documentary does provide the viewers in to a very indigenous looking atmosphere which provides the viewers with a wrong sense of who Latin Americans are.

  10. Adam Lang says:

    Rigoberta Menchú played a very important part in this documentary. When she was shown wearing her native clothes, it is a stark contrast to what the American viewers are used to seeing. She immediately identifies herself as a woman of indigenous descent before even speaking. The plain background does even more to highlight this fact, allowing the colors of her clothing to pop out at the viewer.

    I do not think that her story is the story of all of her people and I wish that she did not include that sentence in her documentary. This is only one facet to a story involving many different people and so many intersecting factors. This is her own, very powerful story.

    The imagery used in this documentary is definitely very powerful. Watching the dead bodies of the burned people definitely left a lasting impression on me and I’m sure on many other viewers as well. The reenactments and up close documentary footage are very important in telling the story. However while there were a lot of images, there was not much historical context. Someone who does not know much about this situation or time period may be misled to believe that Guatemala is a place of constant unrest and violence.

    • yininghe says:

      @Adam: I like what you said about the colors of her indigenous dress, and how it is highlighted when juxtaposed against the black background. I think the emphasis on her ethnicity and indigenous background was definitely pronounced and deliberate. The obviousness of the craft can be rather irking as a documentary viewer who wishes to simply observe in a non-biased setting.

      Another thing about color is the contrast between the black and white scenes and the color scenes. The scene with the President and the ambassador is presented in black and white to convey a sense of history and realism, but if I am not wrong, it was a reenacted scene. This is clearly misrepresenting fiction as non-fiction, causing viewers to buy into the messages of the film.

      • Adam Lang says:

        I feel the same way. This documentary, rather than providing facts, showed dramatizations with little context. I would have much preferred some real historical facts to give some background and make her story more powerful. Leaving out a lot of facts can almost make it seem like the movie is intended to bias viewers one way and can make it seem almost less credible.

  11. Rigoberta Menchú’s role as narrator was to add authenticity to the documentary. The fact that she was a native, speaking about her personal life story made the movie that much more creditable. I do believe that viewer should be able to have some trust her narration, just because her words may have been scripted to an extent doesn’t make her story and experience any less true. Even in her choice of clothing you could see how she was attached and connected to her and ancestors’ culture. Conversely, in the film there was a pageant where they had women wear their traditional garments for what seemed to be for entertainment. It is a possibility that this Rigoberta Menchú’s clothes were a form of costume to make what she had to say more creditable. Yet her delivery, made it seem like were listening to a legitimate indigenous woman. Taking note of that I dismissed my suspicions.

    I did think it was a little strange that Rigoberta Menchú spoke in Spanish. I understand that her first language is Kimche derived from a Mayan dialect. Spanish as she mentioned at UCONN is her second language. This makes room for things to get lost in translation. If the documentary had Rigoberta Menchú speaking in her first language, while having English and/or Spanish subtitles then it would of sold it a little more. I am not implying that she not fluent in Spanish, but that Spanish it not indicative of her indigenous culture but a more modernized Guatemala. To my interpretation the objective of the film is to make the viewer understand and view the historic tragedies trough the eyes of someone who witnessed first hand. Still, another question poses…is her experience unique or a depiction of how everyone felt regarding the Guatemala’s issues at the time?

    • Adam Lang says:

      I was left wondering the same question as you were at the end of the post. In the beginning she says that her story is the story of all of the indigenous people in Guatemala. I think that it would have almost made her sound more credible if she had said that this was her own story, and there were many others like hers. To come out and say that her voice is the voice of many is not taking into consideration how many people were effected by the violence in Guatemala and how much their experiences differed.

  12. Ernie Abreu says:

    After listening to Rigoberta Menchu, I was impressed by how much she knows about human behaviors. Throughout her presentation, she touches upon many interesting points that varied from human behaviors to human rights. I found some very interesting points that I would like to elaborate on. Although her points
    First off, Menchu starts her speech off by stating that humans are transcendent creatures, and are the most vulnerable species due to our reliance on social interactions. The reasons of this accusation are because humans travel through time, spending their lifetime communicating with others and relying on others. Humanity honors connectivity that’s why we are always connected whether it’s on our phones, social networks on the internet, or face to face interactions. However, Mechu’s reasoning of crimes and atrocities makes me question if we are truly connected to the world. Menchu discussed that the reasons of why there are crimes and atrocities the world is because the suffering is forgotten relatively quick and violence is seen as a normal occurrence. How connected are we if we forget catastrophes, like war, and continue to witness more wars and perceive it as a normal occurrence? Humans are connected when it comes to socializing and obtaining personal desires, but when it comes to being connected or united in a bigger matter, we are hopeless to fight for each other and become vulnerable.
    Rigoberta Menchu brings out the question, what is happening to human beings? Why have we forgotten our own? The answers are that people do not defend their own species and people require more than the necessities to live. Humans are very materialistic creatures. We seize more than what we need to survive. Some of these things that we want can be harmful to another human being, but the desire to have that material is far more important than the well-being of another human. For example, the desire to have a war because of fuel is ignoring the big picture that many humans will die for it.
    However, Menchu did not leave without giving us hope on our forsaken human species. The way to fight the atrocities in the world, we need our conscious. First off, the youth needs the self-esteem to fight and the curiosity of being informed with things that happen in the world and voice their opinions. Second of all, we need to find equilibrium between the negatives and positives things that happen in life. We need to find a way to combine happiness and sadness, joy and hatred. Happiness is the only way to fight the atrocities, envy, corruption, and the rest of the negative behaviors we have as human. Only then, we can construct a better future. Rigoberta Menchu taught me a lot during her speech. It is time to fight together to change the our selfish ways and help our own, the human species.

  13. charliegrab says:

    As we begin to conclude the semester, if we look back, I feel we were overly critical of this film. As the semester rolled on, I feel that this was one of the purest representations of a latin womn we have seen to date.

  14. Lindsey Honig says:

    In When the Mountains Tremble, Rigoberta Menchu serves as the film’s narrator. I believe that the documentarians would have selected her because she would increase the empathy of the viewers. She is a person who experienced many of the traumatic events firsthand, and this would have a greater impact on someone watching the film. For me it definitely caused me to support the side of the indigenous people more strongly. Additionally, when she speaks, she is very composed. This subdued tone allows for the viewer to still think about the issues in a somewhat rational manner, so it doesn’t seem like there is any exaggerated bias.

    I think that the filmmakers are moderately successful in making the documentary “transcultural.” Many of the events the people recollect are transferable to people across the world. For example, when the guerilla army was being created, it could resonate with anyone who has had a family member serve in the military, especially in a defensive (rather than offensive) war. At the same time, the filmmakers also give us a view into everyday indigenous life. I was not very familiar with Guatemalan history or culture before watching this video, so getting a glimpse of this was helpful. However, I also believe that the film’s creators, to a degree, may have overemphasized the innocence or purity of the native people. Through the images of garb and tradition, as well has having Menchu speak in Spanish, they establish the Indian population as “the other,” which impacts the lens through which we view these people.

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