TRAILER: This Ecuadorian Doc Unravels the Mystery of President Jaime Roldós’ Suspicious Death

There was a time, not too long ago, when Latin America was known more for its brutal dictatorships than its rapidly emerging world economies. From Santo Domingo to Santiago de Chile, corruption, repression, and mass extrajudicial killings characterized the better part of 20th century politics in the region, often with the direct oversight of the American government. And while names like Pinochet and Trujillo still reverberate in our collective consciousness, there were lesser known but equally shady generals and strongmen jealously hoarding power all across Nuestra América.

One of those cases was Ecuador, which suffered from 1976-79 under a military junta dubiously referred to as El Consejo Supremo de Gobierno. Luckily, after a few short years a constitutional reform ultimately brought an end to a rocky history of dictatorship in the country that stretched back to the 1960s, and a charismatic, educated, and highly progressive president by the name of Jaime Roldós assumed the task of guiding the country back down a path of democracy and social welfare. Less than two years later Roldós died mysteriously in a plane crash.

La muerte de Jaime Roldós (The Death of Jaime Roldós), the latest documentary by Manolo Sarmiento and Lisandra I. Rivera, employs archival footage, still photographs, and interviews with Roldós’ children to take a fresh look at a death shrouded in intrigue and prematurely ruled an accident by government officials.

With a classic, straightforward style, Sarmiento and Rivera take on a subject of historical importance in order to ask questions rather than provide answers, in the great tradition of documentary masters like Errol Morris (The Fog of War). Indeed, in addition to picking up the top documentary prize at the Havana Film Festival this week, the film has recently inspired a reopening of the investigation into Roldós’ death, proving that just maybe film can change the world after all.