With just over a quarter century under her belt, Betzabé García has rapidly emerged as one of Mexico’s most promising young documentary voices. Her debut feature, Los reyes del pueblo que no existe (Kings of Nowhere) racked up a handful of prestigious festival laurels when it premiered last year, propped up by important prizes at fests like Morelia, Full Frame, and South by Southwest. This impressive resumé, however, was not a mere stroke of cinematic luck: Los reyes is a passion project that García first started pursuing back in 2009, when she was only 19 years old.
Fascinated by the community mobilization surrounding a massive dam project in her home state of Sinaloa, García made deep connections with the affected communities that gave her privileged, on-the-ground access to the events as they unfolded. Her years of engagement, combined with a profound narrative and visual sensibility resulted in a melancholic story of loss set against the backdrop of Mexico’s social dysfunction.
Now, as part of a New York Times Op-Doc initiative exploring Mexico’s social reality through the eyes of Mexican filmmakers, Betzabé García repurposed some of her material into Unsilenced, a short doc that tells the tragic story of Atilano Román Tirado. As a community leader, Tirado was at the forefront of the movement seeking just compensation for the hundreds of rural residents who found their homes underwater during the construction of the dam. In the midst of threats and open violence toward their movement, Tirado soldiered on, unfazed, until one day armed assassins burst into a live radio broadcast and shot him to death on the air.
The content of this 10-minute doc will be familiar for those who have had the opportunity to catch Los reyes, but thanks to Op-Docs a much wider public will have the opportunity to see Atilano’s story. And indeed, more than a brief summary of her feature, Unsilenced is a loving homage to a man who prioritized the fight for the greater good above of his own life.