Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Movie with Abe: Our Mothers

Our Mothers
Directed by César Díaz
Released May 1, 2020

At some point in their lives, everyone loses someone. That process is a painful one, and it can be made even more difficult by complicating circumstances either before or after death. Saying goodbye and providing a loved one with a proper resting place is very important to most people, and our present global situation is making that impossible for many mourners. When paying respects and burying someone are prevented not by a goal of safety but instead the suppression of dissent and the covering up of misdeeds and killings, closure may truly never be achieved for those left only to remember the people they once knew.

Ernesto (Armando Espitia) works as an anthropologist in Guatemala in 2018, receiving and investigating the stories of people who either know or suspect that their family members were murdered during the decades-long civil war that plagued his country. Ernesto is kind and generous in the way he interacts with those who come forward, but he is shaken by one account from a woman who shows him a picture of a guerilla soldier he believes is his father. Determined both to help this woman and to find answers about his own past, Ernesto presses to uncover the truth, even if it means going around the legal guidelines he otherwise always follows.

This film serves as a formidable reminder that many countries around the world are reckoning with a widely-experienced national trauma in their recent history. This deeply personal story inspired by the oral tradition of real-life women in Guatemalan villages serves as an excellent and powerful counterpoint to the Spanish documentary "The Silence of Others," which shows subversive efforts to grapple with what was lost during a dictatorship that its citizens have collectively agreed to forget. This film succeeds in bringing the horrors committed during the Guatemalan civil war to a wider audience and amplifying the voices of those who have vowed to keep the memories of those they have lost alive.

Actors Espitia and Emma Dib, who plays Ernesto's mother, anchor this story well, and the casting of non-actors from Guatemalan villages proves particularly poignant in creating an authentic narrative that pays tribute to so many who died in this universal story of unresolved anguish. Debut director César Díaz crafts a heartfelt and compelling film, which runs just seventy-eight minutes and was originally intended as a documentary, shining a spotlight on an unbelievably common situation that has left so many wondering about the fate of those who disappeared or were taken from them years earlier. After a successful premiere at last year's Cannes Film Festival, this Belgian-Guatemalan film will be available beginning later this week to watch at home via Virtual Cinema by supporting a local theater.


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