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When the Mountains Tremble1983

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  • 4.1
Shot at the height of a heated battle between 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 accounts of Rigoberta Menchú, a Quiché 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.

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1 member likes this review

When The Mountains Tremble (1983) is a VERY informative, and well executed documentary. The amount of "inside access" achieved by this filmmaker in this dispassionate record of the Guatemalen Civil War is truly amazing. She was able to achieve intimate contact with both the repressive military dictatorship, and with the insurgent rebel forces. How this filmmaker achieved such deep parallel contacts in a country torn apart by civil war without getting killed herself boggles my mind. "Expert talking heads" giving detached analyses of the situation at hand, along with some archival footage thrown in, is not the "standard" doc format followed by this intrepid filmmaker. She crawled inside the "belly of the beast", and came out alive to give us this truly remarkable film.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (4)

191242.small
top reviewer

When The Mountains Tremble (1983) is a VERY informative, and well executed documentary. The amount of "inside access" achieved by this filmmaker in this dispassionate record of the Guatemalen Civil War is truly amazing. She was able to achieve intimate contact with both the repressive military dictatorship, and with the insurgent rebel forces. How this filmmaker achieved such deep parallel contacts in a country torn apart by civil war without getting killed herself boggles my mind. "Expert talking heads" giving detached analyses of the situation at hand, along with some archival footage thrown in, is not the "standard" doc format followed by this intrepid filmmaker. She crawled inside the "belly of the beast", and came out alive to give us this truly remarkable film.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Powerful and sad, especially considered how the U.S. actions in Guatemala in the 80s (and going back to the 50s and before) have destabilized the nation today. The reconstructed scene of Jacobo Arbenz and the U.S. ambassador in the 50s is perhaps the worst acted scene in movie history, but otherwise, whether from Rigoberta Menchu, average campesinos, or Rios Montt, the footage is great and the story wrenching.

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top reviewer

Good documentary. Puts you right on the frontline.

Excellent