From a historic genocide trial and the organized defense of the land to the overthrow of a corrupt President, 500 Years tells a sweeping story of resistance in Guatemala's recent history through the actions and perspectives of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society. Official Selection of 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
Amazon calculates a product’s star ratings based on a machine learned model instead of a raw data average. The model takes into account factors including the age of a rating, whether the ratings are from verified purchasers, and factors that establish reviewer trustworthiness.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
My wife and in-laws are from Guatemala, and in 1995 I spent a month touring the country in a rented truck. It is an extraordinarily beautiful and fascinating country, and the people I met were outstandingly friendly and polite. I have read three histories of Guatemala, but none of them brought the story as up-to-date as this film does. The almost 500 years since the conquistadors conquered the Guatemalan Maya have witnessed the theft of Maya lands and the subsequent impoverishment of the Maya. In 1944 a student revolt overthrew a dictator and produced a democracy that redistributed some land to the Maya, until the CIA installed a series of military dictators beginning in 1954 (shown briefly in this documentary film). A brutal civil war ensued, lasting 1960-1996, during which 100,000+ indigenous civilians were killed, including disappearances, tortures and rapes by the army. When I was there, one could hear gunfire throughout every night in Guatemala City. The corrupt ruling elite and its rich supporters believe the Maya are genetically inferior, and 10% of the elite believe the indigenous people should be exterminated (reminiscent of Hitler). Most Maya lack medical care, land, education, and financial resources. In 1999 President Clinton visited Guatemala and apologized for U.S. support of military dictators in Guatemala, shortly after the U.S. declassified documents proving that U.S. training and encouragement of the Guatemalan army was mainly responsible for countless brutal atrocities, such as murdering indigenous babies and burning down hundreds of villages. Per Wikipedia's "Guatemala syphilis experiment," the U.S. intentionally infected Guatemalans with syphilis and other STDs in an experiment (reminiscent of Josef Mengele) 1946-1948 which resulted in 83 deaths, for which the U.S. apologized to Guatemala in 2010. The movie ends with the flying of a gigantic, beautiful kite, perhaps symbolic of the possibility of justice's "taking flight" in Guatemala's future. Still, the prospects are dismal, since Guatemala has rampant corruption, one of the highest murder rates in the world (my wife personally knew 7 people, including close relatives, murdered in Guatemala), education for the poor is minimal, the rate of pay for peasant farm laborers is the equivalent of $2 per 12 hour day, and the U.S. Postal Service refuses to deliver mail to Guatemala due to problems within Guatemala. I highly recommend the related historical fiction film, El Norte.
Pamela Yates' most recent documentary may be her best yet---and she's been making outstanding documentaries about Guatemala since 1983's award-winning When The Mountains Tremble. While the US has its own history of genocide against its own indigenous population, the US also participated and covered up genocide against the Mayan people of Guatemala. This film focuses only briefly on the the atrocities committed by Guatemala's military rulers and their allies in government, and more on indigenous leaders and a popular movement which brought one murderous dictator to trial and brought down a corrupt president.
I am very happy to finally see a movie about what happened to the Mayan people in the late 70s and early 80s. My great grandfather used to tell me about this but I never saw anyone else acknowledge it.
The country has tried its hardest to deny genocide but it did happen. My family was fortunate enough to not be living in the mountains and to not be indigenous so we were spared. However, we know what happened to all the people.
Reviewed in the United States on February 20, 2019
To see a country like Guatemala achieve justice through the democratic system is encouraging. I see that a certain elite group has taken over various countries. To see them taken down off their pedestals gives me hope for the world. This new world order that Bush talks about cannot happen. I hope that when Guatemala votes in a new President and reorganizes their government, they will find and have peace and equality. Amen
I learned a lot watching this video. Having visited Guatemala a couple of times in the 1970s, I knew it had a reputation of being a somewhat dangerous place; now I have a much better understanding of why. Very well done. My single criticism was that the translators' audio did not stand out enough from the background native languages; I had to turn on the subtitles in order to follow the story. Otherwise, a great watch!
This film is touching and it plays a significant role in shedding light on the horrors of the elite, all the while examining the true story of Guatemala's people coming together to seek justice. Justice is a right, not a privilege. It is not revenge nor envious. it is the truth and only the truth which justice seeks for all of us. Thanks
Poignant truth about the genocide in Guatemala that lasted over 50 years.The resilient Mayan people are to be commended for their humility. Theirs is a rich and ancient culture that respects the earth.Hope for new generations to come.There are no violent scenes or graphics just current people narrating what really happened.
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2020
The Mayan testimonials are amazing, and most interviewees open themselves up to relate their heartbreaking stories. At times the film feels distant from the subject, and the reliance on editing and animations pulls me out of the story.
Overall, the world is a better place thanks to the work of these filmmakers.