CENTRAL AMERICA

Harvest of Empire: The Untold Story of Latinos in America

High School/Adult

Harvest of Empire offers a comprehensive analysis of the connection between immigration to the U.S. and the long history of United States intervention in Latin America. “They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government’s actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades — actions that forced millions from that region to leave their homeland and journey north,” says Juan González at the beginning of the film. The film is based on a book of the same title by González. 2012. 90 minutes.

 

The Houses Are Full of Smoke

High School/Adult

The Houses Are Full of Smoke is a documentary series released in 1987 studying U.S. involvement in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. "An eye-opening documentary about the Central American wars ... the film's most frightening sequences are bloodless interviews with right-wing vigilantes--self-possessed men of power who suavely deny their responsibility for crimes attributed to them by human rights organizations ... a formidable work of investigative cinema." - San Francisco Examiner. Streams free online.

 

If the Mango Tree Could Speak

Elementary/Middle/high school

If the Mango Tree Could Speak shares the story of ten girls and boys in Guatemala and El Salvador during the war. From losing family members to war, to challenges to obtaining an education, to the struggle to retain Mayan identity, the movie is filled with their stories, portraying the war through the lens of the youth whose lives it changed. There is a beautiful companion website, When We Were Young, with interviews conducted 20 years later.


EL SALVADOR

Gold or Water? The Struggle Against Mining in El Salvador

High School/Adult

Gold or Water? The Struggle Against Mining in El Salvador explores how residents in the northern Salvadoran community of Santa Marta are fighting U.S. and Canadian mining companies eager to extract the rich veins of gold buried near the Lempa River, the water source for more than half of El Salvador’s 6.2 million people. The film streams for free online in English and Spanish.

 

Guazapa: Yesterday's Enemies

High School/Adult

Guazapa: Yesterday’s Enemies explores the past and present of the Salvadoran civil war. Don North, a U.S. war correspondent who had spent two months in El Salvador during the height of the conflict, returns to El Salvador to interview people about the consequences 26 years later. The film consists of those interviews and observations from 2009 as well as the observations he collected in 1983 when he first began documenting the crisis. Read COHA review of the film. For a copy, write to Don North for ordering information.

 

Maria's Story:  A Documentary Portrait of Love and Survival in El Salvador's Civil War 

High School/Adult

Maria’s Story: In 1989, Maria Serrano, was on the frontlines of the civil war. With unprecedented access to FMLN guerrilla camps, the filmmakers dramatically chronicle Maria's daily life in the war as she travels from village to village organizing the peasant population, and helps plan a major nationwide offensive that led the FMLN into the historic peace pact of 1992. Originally produced in 1991, the contemporary DVD includes updates on Maria's family 20 years later. 2010. 60 minutes. 

 

Romero

High School/Adult

Oscar Romero was named Archbishop of El Salvador at a time when the country was in turmoil and a slogan on the right was "Be a Patriot--Kill a Priest." Starring Raúl Juliá, Romero follows the Archbishop's personal journey from being on the side of the elite to fighting fervently for social reforms and becoming “the voice for the voiceless.” Produced by a Roman Catholic order, the film says little about the role of the U.S. 1989. 102 minutes.

 

Roses in December

High School/Adult

Roses in December. On December 2, 1980, lay missioner Jean Donovan and three American nuns were brutally murdered by members of El Salvador’s security force. This film chronicles Jean’s life, from her affluent childhood in Connecticut, to her decision to volunteer with the Maryknolls in El Salvador, to her tragic death. "The power of this documentary is that it may reshock us into remembering the United States’ complicity in El Salvador: Our government arms a government that kills Americans." - Washington Post. 1982. 56 minutes.

 

Voces Inocentes/Innocent Voices

High School/Adult

Based on the life of co-screenwriter Óscar Torres, Innocent Voices tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who is forced to join the Salvadoran army during the civil war.

 

18 With a Bullet

High School/Adult

18 With a Bullet documents the life and experiences of a major Salvadoran gang called “18.” Gangs developed in El Salvador as a result of deportation of thousands of Salvadorans from the U.S. in the 1990s, including young people who had joined gangs while in Los Angeles.


GUATEMALA

Dirty Secrets: Jennifer, Everardo & the CIA in Guatemala

High School/Adult

Dirty Secrets describes Jennifer Harbury’s courageous search for her missing husband Everardo — a Mayan rebel leader — and reveals the dark legacy of decades of CIA complicity in Guatemalan human rights abuses. Part human rights primer, part mystery and part love story, Dirty Secrets follows Harbury through a frightening journey to save Everardo and stop the killing in Guatemala.

 

El Silencio de Neto

High School/Adult

El Silencio de Neto is a coming of age story of a young boy in the midst of the U.S. backed overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 in Guatemala. Read a detailed description. This film, produced by Luis Argueta, is available on Netflix. 1994. 108 minutes.

 

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

High School/Adult

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator is an award-winning film that connects the lives of five different individuals trying to piece together the past and demand justice for Guatemala. The leaders that had orchestrated the brutal genocide against the Mayans in 1982 have still not been brought to justice. An international human rights lawyer, a forensic archivist, documentary filmmaker, forensic anthropologist and Mayan survivor team up to make that justice happen. 2011. 103 minutes.

 

Guatemala: The Secret Files

High School/Adult

Guatemala: The Secret Files tells the story of a hidden history in Guatemala that is being uncovered by human rights activists and a non-profit tech company called Benetech. Archaeologists and Benetech have discovered an archive of hidden police records that documented the human rights violations committed by the state during Guatemala’s civil war. 

 

Sipakapa Not Sold

High School/Adult

The transnational company Glamis Gold (now Gold Corp. ) operates a gold mine in Guatemala. The Maya People of Sipakapa defend their autonomy against the advance of the great neoliberal projects.

 

When the Mountains Tremble

High School/Adult

When the Mountains Tremble filmed in 1982 at the height of the Guatemalan Army’s repression against the Mayan indigenous people, has become a classic political documentary. It describes the struggle of the largely Indian peasantry against a heritage of state and foreign oppression.


HONDURAS

Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley

High School/Adult

When a 21st century coup d’état ousts the only president they ever believed in, these Honduran farmers take over the plantations with no plans to ever give them back.

Beginning with the first coup in Central America in three decades, Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley picks up the story of the farmers who responded to the coup by taking over the plantations of the most powerful man in Honduras. The camera follows three of the movement’s protagonists and one brilliant journalist from the capital city over the four years between the coup and the elections that the farmers hope will return democracy to Honduras. Produced by Makila Usine Médiatique and Naretiv Productions.


PANAMA

The Panama Deception

High School/Adult

In their Oscar-winning documentary, director Barbara Trent and writer/editor David Kasper contrast media coverage of the 1989 invasion of Panama with expert testimony. The filmmakers backtrack to the U.S. turn-of-the-century takeover of the Panama Canal--and volatile aftermath--before flashing forward to the reform-minded Carter era. When the CIA-supported Noriega comes to power, reform gives way to repression, and Reagan calls for the dictator's ouster. The documentary streams for free online. 1992. 90 minutes.


JOURNEY NORTH

El Norte

High School/Adult

El Norte is a about a brother and sister who fled the persecution and civil war of Guatemala after the government army destroyed their home and family. The movie follows their journey north through Mexico, crossing the border into the United States, and life in Los Angeles as undocumented immigrants. Directed by Gregory Nava, El Norte received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 1985. The film was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." 1983. 139 minutes.

 

The Golden Dream/La Jaula de Oro

High School/Adult

The Golden Dream/La jaula de oro tells the story of four teenagers (three Guatemalan and one Mexican) on a dangerous journey across the border to the U.S. Their stories are based on 600 interviews conducted by the director. "La Jaula de Oro just may stand as the definitive Latino immigrant odyssey." -- Film Journal International. Listen to an extended Democracy Now! interview with film director Diego Quemada-Diéz on La Jaula de Oro and migration to the U.S. Available on Netflix. 

 

Which Way Home? 

High School/Adult

Academy Award nominee Which Way Home follows unaccompanied children as they make the long and treacherous voyage to the U.S. border. Some, like Olga and Freddy, venture out in search of distant relatives. Others, like Kevin, hope to find work to support their families at home. Often traveling for months or even years at a time, these courageous and determined children each have stories of hope and resilience, disappointment and sorrow. Chronicling the harrowing journey of thousands of migrant children, Which Way Home illuminates a powerfully human side of immigration.