The Revolution Has Been Photographed

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I have long been a fan of photojournalism and the story one image a frame of film can tell.  In late 2010 the work of many photojournalists was on exhibit at the Getty Center here in Southern California and I discovered the work of Susan Meiselas.  The photos displayed from her extensive archive was from the time she spent in Nicaragua with the Sandinista during the revolution in 1979.  Impressed by the bravery of the people who were willing to risk their lives for what they believed, Meiselas felt she had to stay and photograph this important movement.  Her photos are at once captivating, haunting, terrifying and engaging. I found myself unable to look away. But I also wanted to know more about the people in the photos.  So imagine my surprise last night as I flicked through the pages of Netflix, when I discovered a little known documentary made by Meiselas titled Pictures from a Revolution that tells the story behind the photos from her time in Nicaragua.  Yay!

Meiselas returns to Nicaragua and tries to find the subjects of her photographs. The woman pictured above in red was but 15 when this photo was taken. She was wheeling her husband to his final resting place after being shot by the National Guard. She tells a story of how no one would help her bury her husband and how scared she was when the National Guard began shooting at her as she began to cover him with dirt.

What is most devastating to many people 10 years after the revolution, is that not much has changed in Nicaragua. The revolution was to bring about great change for the poor people of the country, but many, like the girl below in pink, who is now a grown woman with a girl of her own, feels the revolution was all in vain. It’s truly devastating to see her break down in tears as she thinks about the difficulty she and her family have faced in the 10 years since the revolution.

I have to tell you it is not a great documentary, it isn’t worthy of any awards and it will not go down in history as a great lost treasure. But it is a wonderful insight into Meiselas’ work, an incredibly timely piece about revolutions and people fighting to be free of oppressive regimes, and a reminder about the ultimate futility of war. Definitely worth a rental or an instant viewing next time you’re on Netflix.


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