General Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia was the 37th President of Guatemala. Back in the 1970s, when the country still had some free speech left, left leaning citizen protested against his human rights violations. Evidence of these protests exist as news reels. And few of those reels still exist, while the government left most of them to rot. After all, the lack of historical record is beneficial for anti-communist regimes to suppress and kill their citizens.
But Garcia is not The Silence of the Mole‘s main subject. If anything, he’s a tertiary figure here despite of this atrocities. The documentary’s main subject then, is Elias Barahona, a mysterious figure in Guatemala because he departed from the left to join Garcia’s government. Of course, the real story is more complex. The film talks to Barahona’s leftist collaborators who understand that Barahona had to stay silent to spy on the government.
The film’s main story is interesting enough as it is, and the same goes for the side stories about film preservation and how Guatemala survives on film. When it doesn’t interview Barahona’s friends, it shows a lot of archives of either smuggled film or footage that survived because Americans shot them. Director Anais Taracena’s narration is cool too. This is one of the cases where her approach is understandable even though she can get artsy.
Nonetheless, these scenes make the film different from political documentaries that sometimes veer into thriller territory. Besides, her artistic depiction of decay is much better than the sensory overload in most political documentaries. The film eventually returns to the interview scenes which the film does best. One of Barahona’s collaborators remind viewers of all the people he saved. And those people are enough to build a Guatemala where free speech reigns as it should do.