By William Ramírez (CLACS ’15)
It had only been about two months since I started my position as Visual Arts Engagement Coordinator at MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana) in San José, California when I received the news from Pamela Yates in December of 2016: 500 Years had been accepted into the 2017 Sundance Film Festival!
An acclaimed documentary filmmaker, this was not the first time Yates, her work, and the team at Skylight Pictures have accomplished such a great feat. In fact, the two documentaries about Guatemala preceding 500 Years, When the Mountains Tremble (1984) and Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011) also premiered at the festival in their respective years.
During my time as a student at CLACS at NYU, I had the great privilege of interning as a Research Assistant at Skylight Pictures. Part of my work involved researching and collecting digital, visual, and scholastic material on past and current human and environmental rights violations in Guatemala that could be used in the documentary. While not directly in line with the research for my master’s thesis on the cultural production (specifically, literature) of the Guatemalan diaspora and its connection with cultural and artistic movements in the isthmus, this work still allowed me to delve deep into the social and political contexts that have shaped and are still influencing not only the country and its people, but also its artistic production today.