September 1954. Before his journey into exile Jacobo Arbenz, the overthrown President of Guatemala, is presented to photographers stripped down to his underwear: an image seen around the world.
Arbenz had led the successful 1944 revolt against the military dictatorship, a regime that had oppressed Guatemala since colonialism. Arbenz, the son of Swiss immigrants, was celebrated as a national hero. Elected President in 1950, Arbenz was not a member of any party - he didn't issue any manifestos. But he began to fulfill his promises - farmers got their own land. "The first act of justice since colonial times," said Arbenz.
In the early 1950s, with the Cold War intensifying, then Vice President Richard Nixon said, "Arbenz is not a Guatemalan President." Nixon called him "a foreigner, manipulated by foreign powers." The young President of Guatemala was soon overthrown, declared a traitor, and chased out of the country.
The white hero, in whom the country had placed such high hopes, had been seduced; at least that was the official version. He had been betrayed by foreign powers, by Indians, by a woman. He was not a man, not a President. The religious discord was settled, the old power structures were reestablished, and civil war raged across the country for over 40 years.
"Required viewing for the young generation, and for the historical memory of Guatemala." - Eduardo Antonio Velásquez Cerrera, Prensa Libre (Guatemala)
Peace Film Prize, 1996 Berlin International Film Festival
First Prize, 1996 Valladolid International Documentary Film Festival (Spain)
1997 Human Rights Watch Film Festival
"Andreas Hoessli captures the essence of a country, Guatemala, that has had its heart torn asunder and its soul obliterated. He has related the story of a harrowing tragedy that is, at its core, about bananas, but whose consequences defy the imagination ... His sensitive portrait of the Guatemalan national reform leader, Jacobo Arbenz, is an extraordinary work of art. And yet, through the magic alchemy of film, he has turned one of the most tawdry and shameful episodes in American foreign policy into an extraordinary tribute to the endurance of Guatemala." - Stephen Schlesinger, Director, World Policy Institute, and author of "Bitter Fruit"
"Hoessli's film is a monument of analysis and includes a wealth of fascinating archive footage that pinpoints the time and the lessons of history. Riveting viewing." -- Sheila Whitaker, London Film Festival