La Isla: Archives of a Tragedy

Decades after thousands of Guatemalans disappeared into the abyss of civil war, thousands of families learn how they died in “La Isla – Archives of a Tragedy” being presented at The Fifth Annual Charlotte Film Festival.

A building explosion in Guatemala City two years ago shed light on the archives of the secret police. This allowed an investigation into the hidden history of this Latin American country from the military coup of in the film, to screen during the festival Sept. 20-27th, young Guatamaleans sift through troubling documents that describe people dying from shock torture and how, during police interrogations, officers sliced wounds into the soles of suspects who were then forced to walk over salt. The archives also include horrific photos of mutilated bodies.

The U.S.-supported dictatorship had set up an extensive program of elimination against the opposition, complete with death squads. Surviving relatives of untraceable "revolutionaries" and "communists" study documents in the film that reveal the fate of their loved ones. Thousands were dumped anonymously into a cemetery.

The film highlights how saddened relatives finally get answers to so many unanswered questions. It also creates a venue for dialogue about the disturbing facts that have come to light. Director Uli Stelzner is an author, director and producer in Berlin and Central America. Over the years he’s been a mailman, garbage man, semi-pro football player and teacher. He’s a member of the German Association of documentary filmmakers (Agdok) and co-founder and member of the Guatemalan Association of Audiovisual Workers (AGA).

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