The film that shook audiences and critics alike upon its original theatrical release this revoutionary tour-de-force and Sundance Film Festival winner is now available for the first time on DVD. Digitally remastered to commemorate its 20th Anniversary this special edition chronicles the astonishing story of one woman who stood up for her people and helped wage a rebellion in the wake of seemingly unconquerable oppression. Shot at the height of a heated battle betwwen the heavily-armed Guatemalan Military and a nearly defenseless Mayan population filmmakers Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel threw themselves into the center of a storm to capture live combat footage with a surprisingly robust passion and exhilarating flair. As the first film to depict this previously unreported war it is firmly anchored by the firsthand accounds of Rigoberta Mench+Ý a Quich+ª Indian woman known around the world for her humanitarian efforts. Throughout the imminent chaos and danger Menchu provides courage and optimism in a time where death squads kill without conscience and an oppressive dictator seizes power. Updated after Mench+Ý was awarded the Nobel Peach Price WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE includes a compelling filmmaker commentary as well as a never-before-seen introduction from Susan Sarandon and an illuminating epilogue reflecting on the country's events a decade later. DVD Features: Filmmaker Commentary from Pamela Yates Newton Thomas Sigel and Editor Peter Kinoy; Never-Before-Seen Introduction by Susan Sarandon; Epilogue featuring Rigoberta Mench+Ý; Filmmaker Biographies; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection
The 20th Anniversary Special Edition of When the Mountains Tremble
remains as startling and sad as it was when first released. Though promoted as "the astonishing story" of Nobel Peace Prize winner and Quiche Indian Rigoberta Menchú, the documentary is actually more the story of the Guatemalan people at large, specifically the struggles of the poor and peaceful Indian population that came to be labeled "subversives" by a draconian government.
The film won several independent film awards, and earns its stead among other political truth-telling documentaries, including Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. The explanation of the role the Reagan administration played in providing money, arms and training to the corrupt Guatemalan government has relevance to countless other American interventions in foreign affairs. The filmmakers reveal both the complexities and the tragedies of the Guatemalan situation; scenes of Indians digging through massive garbage dumps for useful scraps are juxtaposed with those of government-sponsored beauty pageants in which Indians are proudly paraded in native costumes. Footage of breast-feeding Indians making camp in the jungle to avoid being found (and killed) is equally as compelling as the images from protests and brutalities that occurred in the cities.
When it comes to the DVD extras, skip the pointless introduction by Susan Sarandon, who delivers her canned speech unusually stiffly and wearing a schlumpy blue sweatshirt, and head straight for the audio commentary by filmmakers Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel and producer Peter Kinoy. Their insights, added in 2004, answer many of the lingering questions spawned by the two-decades-old film, including indigenous Guatemalan gains made (and lost) in the years since. --Brangien Davis