In Guatemala, Addressing Domestic Violence Through Film

Posted by Ruth Urry
December 19, 2013
A Guatemalan Woman Holds a Bouquet of Flowers

While serving at U.S. Embassy Guatemala City, I worked with a U.S.-based filmmaker, Kimberly Bautista, in support of the Department of State’s campaign to end gender-based violence (GBV).  Kimberly’s documentary, Justice for My Sister, tells the true story of a Guatemalan woman who sought accountability for her sister’s murder as a result of relationship violence. 

As fate would have it, the dates of Central America’s largest international film festival, ICARO, came close to the start of the UN’s 16-Day Campaign to End Gender Violence.  The Embassy Public Affairs Section provided a small grant to Kimberly to facilitate her attendance at the film festival.  Our Ambassador, Arnold A. Chacon, introduced Justice for My Sister at its November 17 premiere to show his solidarity with efforts to end the scourge of GBV and to help raise awareness of its negative impact on families, communities, and entire societies.  Fifteen members of Guatemala’s National Civil Police also attended, signaling an important show of support for this cause. Kimberly and Rebeca, the lead figures in the documentary, also spoke with the audience to encourage more action in the struggle to end violence against women and help survivors of GBV.

We were so happy for Kimberly and Rebeca when the documentary won first place at the ICARO festival for best long-form documentary!  The film was also honored as best documentary at the 2013 Los Angeles Latino International film festival.  We weren’t too surprised – it is a moving and powerful film, illustrating the values of citizen empowerment, leadership, courage, and love for family. 

Kimberly works with a Guatemalan outreach group, “the Collective,” which organizes community screenings of her film and holds workshops to prevent violence and promote healthy relationships.  On November 18, in conjunction with her outreach group, we showed the film to 65 Guatemalan youth at the Guatemalan Attorney General's Office for Human Rights.  The youth ombudsman introduced the film and reminded adolescents of their rights.  Following the film and presentation, the audience held a lively discussion of gender stereotypes and discussed ways to help victims of relationship abuse.  The U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section has supported community screenings and discussions of Justice for My Sister since 2011.

The United States has made preventing and responding to gender-based violence a cornerstone of our commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Our support for Justice for My Sister is one more step toward galvanizing action to put an end to violence against women, not only in Guatemala, but everywhere.

About the Author: Ruth Urry serves as the Outreach Coordinator in the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

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