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When the Mountains Tremble

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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(Aug 24, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

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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


Special Features

  • Introduction by Susan Sarandon
  • Epilogue featuring Rigoberta Menchu
  • Filmmaker biographies

Product Details

  • Actors: Rigoberta Menchú, Susan Sarandon
  • Directors: Newton Thomas Sigel, Pamela Yates
  • Producers: Peter Kinoy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: August 24, 2004
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002HOD7W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,716 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "When the Mountains Tremble" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
When the Mountains Tremble is a documentary on the persecution of indigenous peoples in Guatemala. The movie was originally released in 1983 and received numerous accolades. The movie has been re-released both for its 10th year anniversary and more recently on DVD for its 20th year anniversary. The movie was filmed by Yates (Sound) and Sigel (Camera), who collaborated as directors. Yates would continue on a career of award-winning documentaries including an Academy Award for El Salvador. Sigel would eventually depart the documentary genre to work on such Hollywood Blockbusters as The Usual Suspects, Three Kings, and X-Men.

The filmmakers' intent in making the movie was to record the injustices Guatamala's despotic government committed against the indigenous peoples and use it to sway American opinion. While the filmmakers are clearly on the side of the Indians they give both sides reasonable time to make their case. Not allot of camera tricks were needed to get you rooting for the natives. It is difficult not to feel an affinity for the 15 year old female gorilla was speaks of a better future while making a traditional craft in between skirmishes with the Army. This feeling is further solidified when the next scene shows a barking general in aviator glasses surrounded by armed thugs (we later find out the general is currently being prosecuted for genocide). To be fair, they also show the army's lowly foot soldiers, who also look 15, getting shot and explaining that they do not understand the mission only that they are doing their duty.

The humanitarian crises are also well documented. Indian IDPs explain how their village was raped and pillaged before being burnt to the ground. They now try to survive in the mountains, keeping lookouts for any signs of an impeding army.
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I am 41, and I remembered all the conflict in this region from being younger, but after watching this, I realized what I knew wasn't enough.

This movie tells the story, and puts the viewer in a compassionate state of mind so that they can really perceive what the conflict meant to the people that were IN it. I found myself asking, would I have fled to the jungle? What would I do if my child was starving and I was in that situation? What would I do if I saw my neighbor killed in front of me for having a dissenting opinion? Goodness, what a rough spot these peole were in!

Oh, there are plenty of facts presented, as it is a well executed documentary, but unlike a lot of documentaries, this movie goes further. It really helped me connect with the human element.

I found myself thinking of this movie the next day, in fact, it was on my mind when I woke up. It will make you ask questions about the role the US and US corporations played in the start of the conflict- questions that should have been asked very long ago.
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Takes away the mainstream bs and give truth a voice! In the practiced web of deceit, known commonly as US Foreign Policy; human rights and democracy are foreign. Remember Shakespeare's, "Me thinks he doth protest too much!". The USA's talking way too too much about democracy. So instead of looking behind the "IRON CURTAINS" of yesterday, today, & tomorrow look inside, "When the Mountains tremble".
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I teach high school Spanish and I chose this movie because the reviews were so good. I wanted to provide some information to my students about the Guatemalan Civil War and the prejudices that indigenous population are subject to there. Although I appreciate and support the point of view of this movie, I do not think this movie/documentary was done well. It is extremely tedious and basically uninteresting. There is a dramatization of the president of Guatemala meeting with an official from United States, and it is so poorly done and ridiculous that I cannot believe this was in a professional documentary. I'm very disappointed in this video and will not be using it in my classroom again. It is so poorly edited that I truly do not understand the positive reviews. The interviews of Rigoberta Menchu are fairly interesting but she basically sits and answers the interviewers questions. That is the only part of this video I found vaguely informative or interesting. I truly wanted to like this film and I wanted this to be an important part of the unit that we are doing on Central America but I will look elsewhere.
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I had watched this movie because I had heard about it from several different lectures I had attended. I am very interested in what takes place to bring militaries to such heinous crimes. I had seen another documentary by Pamela Yates and had enjoyed that one as well.
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People should watch such films to realize what`s going on in our world (and sometimes in our neighbourhood); the dubious role of the US in the connection of "liberating" people
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Useful reminder of the brutality and terror foisted on indigenous population while Church and world stood by....never again must mean never again!
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This is a terrific documentary but it's director is Pamela Yates who shared credit with some of her subjects, Menchu included. Great viewing for anyone interested in the history of the Mayan people.
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