The Good Christian
*FEISAL AWARD* - Guadalajara International Film Festival 2016
Riviera Maya International Film Festival
Morelia International Film Festival
International Documentary Film Festival of Mexico City (DOCSDF)
Festival Icaro Guatemala
"Illuminates the specific mechanics of genocide as well as the ideological worldview of the first genocidal head of state in modern history to be formally brought to justice before his own nation’s judicial system" - CINEASTE
According to José Efraín Ríos Montt, a self-declared born-again Christian: “A good Christian packs the Bible in one hand, a submachine gun in the other.” The former Guatemalan generalissimo and dictator was picked to lead a military coup in 1982, and presided over the country and its US-supported anticommunist military from 1982-1983. During this time, he led savage counterinsurgency and “scorched earth” military campaigns, characterized by extrajudicial execution of noncombatants and the annihilation of hundreds of indigenous communities across the countryside. This period is recognized as the bloodiest phase of the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War, a conflict in which more than 200,000 people were killed, 80% of whom were from indigenous Mayan communities.
The Good Christian approaches this history through the frame of the 2013 criminal trial of Ríos Montt in Guatemala City for the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. His killing of 1,771 Maya Ixil natives in 1982-83 serves as a basis for the case, and experts, orphans, widows, and Ríos Montt himself testify. The film also explores a range of collaborators and apologists of the Ríos Montt regime, who attempt to justify their support for a racist national security doctrine that considered indigenous groups, such as the Maya Ixil, as an “internal enemy” to be annihilated. These interviewees reveal how “beans and bullets” programs, civil self-defense patrols, and other policies ripped Guatemala’s indigenous social fabric apart.
Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 80 years in prison, in the first genocide conviction in history of a former head of state in a domestic, rather than international, court. However, only ten days later, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court overturned the decision in a 3-2 ruling and sent it back to trial. The retrial has since been suspended and remains stuck in procedural limbo.
In providing detailed first-hand accounts, and following the justice system's process, The Good Christian offers a definitive window into this dark period of Guatamala's history, and a portrait of the social and political context where its ramifications continue to be felt.
2015, Guatemala, Mexico, 53 minutes, in Spanish with English subtitles.
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