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Discovering Dominga: A Survivor's Story (2003)

Denese Joy Becker, a manicurist living in Iowa, discovers she is indeed Dominga Sic Ruiz, a survivor from a 1982 Guatemalan massacre, when more than 200 people were killed in the small ... See full summary »

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Denese Joy Becker, a manicurist living in Iowa, discovers she is indeed Dominga Sic Ruiz, a survivor from a 1982 Guatemalan massacre, when more than 200 people were killed in the small village of Rio Negro, after opposing the construction of a dam, sponsored by World Bank. She then tries to unveil the truth. Written by lukejoplin@infolink.com.br

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8 July 2003 (USA)  »

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A Descoberta de Dominga  »

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Powerful movie about a woman with two identities
17 January 2016 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

Discovering Dominga: A Survivor's Story (2003), was directed by Patricia Flynn. It's the story of Denese Joy Becker, a women living happily with her family in Iowa. The problem is that Denese has a second identity, derived from the period when she was nine years old, and her name was Dominga Sic Ruiz. Dominga was living in a Mayan village, when the U.S.-supported Guatemalan military came to her village and tried to exterminate every man, woman, and child. Miraculously, Dominga was able to escape. She carried with her an infant sibling, who died along the way.

Dominga was rescued, and spent two years in a Guatemalan orphanage before being adopted by a family in Iowa. Her adoptive family treated her well, and she was happy. When she became an adult, she married a loving, caring man, and they had two children.

Dominga/Denese considered herself an American, but she never quite forgot the terrors of her youth. Eventually, she--along with her husband and a cousin--traveled back to Guatemala to seek for traces of her parents (both dead) and her roots.

What happened when she returned to Guatemala, and partially regained her previous identity, is the basis for the documentary. It's not simple, and it's not fair for a reviewer to forge ahead and tell Dominga's story. It will be better if you find the movie, and let Dominga be the narrator.

I have read a fair amount about the army massacres of the Guatemalan Mayan community, so I was not surprised by what I saw. On the other hand, reading the phrase "the massacres of thousand of Mayans," and watching the aftermath of those massacres are two very different experiences. Suddenly, you can almost feel the horror and terror of what happened during those years. That's why this film is so excellent, and so important.

We saw the movie as part of a program about Guatemala given by the Rochester Committee on Latin America. If you live in the region, check the ROCLA website for information about future programs. We watched the film as projected on a small movie screen. That was better than watching it on a TV or computer, but not as good as seeing it in a theater.

Note #1: I believe this movie may exist in two forms--the PBS POV version, and a standard version.

Note #2: The film includes an exhumation. Absolutely not appropriate for children, and extremely difficult to watch, even for adults.


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