There is no way to tell the recent history of Guatemala, as a country and as a people, without going back to the 1980s. The violence in that period, which targeted indigenous populations and led to many insurgencies that were in turn stamped down with impunity by the government, haunt any present-day representation of the Central American country. Documentaries like Pamela Yates’ 500 Years: Life in Resistance and horror films like Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona have been unearthing that painful history on the big screen, paying close attention to the way trials for those involved has helped bring many of those hushed crimes to light. Joining that ever-growing genre is César Díaz’s Nuestras madres.
This somber drama follows Ernesto, a young anthropologist working for the Forensic Foundation whose mission is to identify those who disappeared during the Civil War. One day while listening to an old woman tell her story, he thinks he’s found a clue which could take him to his father, a guerrilla fighter who also disappeared during that period. Against his mother’s wishes, he throws himself body and soul into the case with the aim of learning the truth. Powerfully grounding this historical trauma in a family drama, the Belgian-Guatemalan director’s film offers a chilly portrait of a country left numbed by violence and silence.
Winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival (bestowed on the best first feature playing the fest), Díaz’s film may well be on its way to an Oscar nomination in the Best International Film category. Only, it won’t be competing on behalf of Guatemala: it has been submitted by Belgium, which shared coproducing credits with France as well. In case you wanted to keep an eye out for this tender drama, take a look at its full trailer below.