The Back of the World

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


It is a rare film that manages to brand an audience's conscience and satisfy the craving for cinematic excellence. Back of the World, Javier Corcuera's magnificent documentary about social injustice is such a film. Masterfully weaving the stories of three specific lives, voices, and tales of disenfranchisement, the film powerfully mines human rights issues endemic in child labor, political imprisonment, and capital punishment. With its disquieting narrative and visual iconography, the film renders a heart-wrenching account of a reality that can no longer remain in our peripheral vision.

Beginning with "The Child," we are escorted to a rugged Peruvian mountain village where 11-year-old Guinder Rodriguez engages in the backbreaking toil of splitting boulders to support his family. Slaving alongside other children and old men alike, Guinder's dreams are undaunted by the unyielding immobility of the impoverished in the third world. In "The Word," we are catapulted into the mire of the Kurdish diaspora as we meet a 60-year-old political refugee and his wife, Leyla Zana, imprisoned for speaking out for her people. The closing chapter, "Life," centers on the emotional and politically heated account of two men, Thomas Miller and Tomás Rangel, scheduled to die by lethal injection in a Texas prison.

By allowing us to see the humanity in all their subjects, regardless of creed, class, or culpability, Corcuera and his fellow filmmakers, screenwriter Fernando León de Aranoa ("Barrio") and esteemed producer Elías Querejeta, insist that no man or government has the right to take the life, spirit, or statehood of another.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

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