Video

Primary Research Lab

As a part of the ongoing summer events in the Outdoor Sculpture Collection at Western Washington University, Western Gallery commissioned Matt Drews and collaborator Gil Bar-Sela to respond choreographically to Scott Burton’s Two Part Chairs, Right Angle Version (a pair), 1983/1987.

I captured and edited the film to frame the visual landscape of their 15 minute performance at Primary Research Lab in Bellingham WA on July 24, 2016.

The performers bodies traverse a physical conversation with the sculptures, blurring the distinction between the raw materials at play, in order to unravel what is essential.

Primary Research Lab is an exhibition project which incorporates talks, tours, research facilities, performances, films and events to frame situations for actively viewing the collection of Minimalist and Post-Minimalist art at Western Washington University.

Roles: Videographer, Editor

Video

Salvadoran-American Children of the Disappeared Search for “Our Parents’ Bones”

Originally published by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights

In 1993, the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador estimated that some 10,000 Salvadoran civilians were forcibly disappeared during the country’s armed conflict. To this day, no meaningful inquiries have been launched to recover their remains or identify those responsible for these crimes. In El Salvador, relatives of the disappeared have been demanding justice for decades. In 2014, the Mauricio Aquino Foundation launched a campaign called “Our Parents’ Bones,” led by children of the disappeared who now live in the United States. The campaign has hosted community events for children, family-members, and friends of the disappeared in cities across the U.S. With the support of the UWCHR’s Unfinished Sentences project, the Our Parents’ Bones campaign is also lobbying both the U.S. and Salvadoran governments to take action to uncover the truth about forced disappearances.

On April 14, 2016, the UWCHR joined the Mauricio Aquino Foundation, the Washington Office on Latin America, and the Due Process of Law Foundation in spearheading a Congressional briefing, hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives Central America Caucus and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. At the briefing, three family members of the disappeared shared their personal stories, alongside David Morales, El Salvador’s Human Rights Ombudsman, who argued that the systemic disregard of such cases has hampered El Salvador’s ability to fight contemporary crime today. As part of the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America, the Obama Administration intends a significant investment in rule of law efforts in El Salvador and neighboring countries; yet participants in this briefing insisted that absent indications of political will to tackle the tough cases—from the past and present eras—infusions of economic assistance will have little effect.

In addition to sponsoring the briefing, members of the delegation met with numerous Congressional offices and with key officers at the State Department, and hosted two public presentations with local organizations. In response, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Norma Torres (D-CA) circulated two Dear Colleague letters on the topic of El Salvador’s disappeared. In total, 26 Members of Congress signed a letter asking the Obama administration to initiate a broad declassification of records pertaining to human rights in El Salvador; 21 Members of Congress also signed a letter to Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén soliciting the creation of a national commission in El Salvador to search for the disappeared.

There is reason to think that Our Parents’ Bones and Members of Congress’ call for a declassification order on El Salvador might be successful—earlier in 2016, the Obama Administration ordered government agencies to release files relating to U.S. involvement in the “Dirty Wars” in both Argentina and Chile. The UWCHR’s research, and our ongoing FOIA lawsuit against the CIA, underscore the importance of precisely such a measure to surmount the limitations of the existing FOIA process and provide access to information that can help families—in both El Salvador and the United States—heal the wounds of war.

The most compelling argument for further declassification and a renewed search for the remains of the disappeared, are the stories of those who lost family members to forced disappearance. Sara Aguilar, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and member of the Our Parents’ Bones campaign, told the story of her father Rodolfo’s disappearance in a video created by the UWCHR. Sara’s story was viewed more than 18,000 times and shared by hundreds of people, many of whom wrote emotional messages of sympathy and solidarity. Hundreds also took action after watching the video by writing to U.S. government officials with the power to influence declassification processes.

“Within my generation this happened.” Sara says, “As a US citizen, I feel like it’s the US’s responsibility to declassify documents…It’s time now, 33, 35 years after the fact, it’s time to know what happened, find some closure, and continue that process of healing.”

Roles: Videographer, Producer

Human Rights, Video Work

The University of Washington sues the CIA

On October 2, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UW CHR) filed a lawsuit against the CIA in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging that the agency has failed to meet its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The UW CHR is seeking the release of U.S. government documents relating to the 1981 Santa Cruz massacre in El Salvador, as part of its mission to conduct research in support of front-line human rights organizations around the world. Earlier this year, I the UW CHR released the first comprehensive report on the massacre, as well as an 18-minute documentary featuring survivors and human rights advocates.

I shot and edited this short piece to succinctly provide background information on the Center’s work and how it relates to their decision to pursue litigation.

For more information, please read the UW CHR’s complete press release.

Roles: Videographer, Editor, Producer

Human Rights, Video Work

God Alone was with US: The Massacre of Santa Cruz

In November, 1981, during the height of the Salvadoran armed conflict, an estimated 1,200 soldiers invaded the rural northern province of Cabañas, El Salvador, to carry out a “cleansing operation.” Survivors of the invasion, however, tell a story of carnage, in which the armed forces directly targeted the unarmed civilian population, including the elderly and women carrying children, using ground forces and aerial bombardment and resulting in the death of untold numbers of campesinos. In particular, hundreds are estimated to have been killed in the massacre of Santa Cruz, which took place at the site of the schoolhouse in Santa Cruz, in the municipality of Ilobasco, department of Cabañas, on November 14, 1981.

In recent years, these events have received renewed attention thanks to the survivors’ ongoing struggle for justice. In March 2014, for example, hundreds gathered in the rural community of Santa Marta, Cabañas, for a restorative justice tribunal sponsored by the Institute of Human Rights at the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” in San Salvador. This event featured public testimony from survivors of this massacre and other related atrocities. Multiple survivors of the massacre have also provided sworn testimony to investigating prosecutors in the Salvadoran Fiscalía General. Despite this, the Fiscalía has thus far failed to conduct a timely or thorough investigation into these events. This effective denial of justice constitutes an ongoing violation of Salvadorans’ fundamental rights.

Since 2013, Unfinished Sentences has worked with partners in El Salvador, Spain, and the United States in an effort to understand and document what happened at Santa Cruz. Today we present God Alone was with Us, the first comprehensive report on this massacre, along with an 18-minute documentary detailing the events of the massacre and survivors’ renewed fight for truth and justice.

For more info visit Unfinished Sentences, a project to encourage public participation in support of human rights in El Salvador. Produced for the UW Center for Human Rights.

Roles: Videographer, Editor, Producer, Project Coordinator

Video Work

Life Poa: Fostering Youth Entrepreneurship in Africa

Providing a bank account and financial education for youth is such a powerful and straightforward way to address poverty, though the various barriers to making it happen are unnecessarily complex.  Numerous structural and regulatory barriers work to prevent youth from saving or opening bank accounts, even if they have the funds to do so. I also shared the misconception that youth in impoverished communities likely aren’t able to save money, which turns out isn’t true.

Last October I went to Kenya for a video project about YouthSave’s Life Poa program, which works to remove some the institutional barriers (such as removing minimum bank balances and ID requirements), establish savings accounts, and provide financial education and support to youth in impoverished areas. I left Kenya super inspired and impressed by the children and families working to save and improve their lives, and the large network of smart and caring people who are working hard to see change happen.

Roles: Videographer, Editor, Producer, Project Coordinator

Video

Day in the Life of an EarthCorps Corps Member

EarthCorps is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 with a mission to build a global community of leaders through local environmental service. EarthCorps provides a year-long intensive program for young adults from the US and 80 other countries to learn best practices in community-based environmental restoration and develop their leadership skills as they supervise more than 10,000 volunteers each year.

In December 2012 I spent the work day with Aidos Toibayev, from Kazakstan, and his crew to document a “Day in the Life” of a corps member working on one of their environmental service projects. ‘Twas a fun day out near the Cascades planting trees along side a creek, throwing earthworms at each other in a game of WORM! and making timelapses in the rain. Thanks Aidos and EarthCorps for the good times!

To learn more about EarthCorps visit www.earthcorps.org

Video

Experimenting with Timelapse: Network and Community Map

For an exercise in examining social networks and communities, I shied away from using visualization software and opted instead go analog with dye-filled cups. I love digital media, but practicing the craft means I often work at my computer until I see blurry. Manipulating the cups (relationships) provided a much needed return to 3D physical visualization. This physicality was again revealed in an interesting statistic I found while analyzing my Facebook and Linked In connections: 97% of my social networks began with a face-to face interaction. This timelapse was my first take on the exploration of shifting relationships and the variables of physicality, proximity, relevance, and size. The attempt truly makes me want to geek out on data visualization.

By the way, if you do want to analyze your networks and make some techno-maps using digital tools, I’ve been hearing good things about the open source data visualization software Gelphi.

Take a macro look at your communities and social networks, digitally or analog, and share with me if you find any interesting themes.

Video

Seeking Truth, Justice, and Reparations in El Salvador

A mini-documentary highlighting the collaborative work between the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights and partners in El Salvador for truth, justice and reparations in El Salvador. By Alex Montalvo, Revelriter Media.

Excerpted from The Center For Human Rights at the University of Washington

“Today, democratic governance in El Salvador is threatened by crises of crime and violence, driven by the longstanding problems of poverty and social exclusion but rendered a potent threat to governability by the widespread perception that the institutions of justice are inoperable. In a sad commentary on the dividends of purported peace, many Salvadorans report that things are worse today than they were during the 12-year civil war that claimed over 75,000 lives.

Despite the signing of peace accords that called for fundamental social and political reforms, no systematic reform of the justice sector has been undertaken, and those in power continue to enjoy the ability to intercede in justice proceedings in the interests of preserving their impunity. There has been no justice for the victims of crimes against humanity committed in the context of the Salvadoran civil war, nor any extensive investigation to establish truth or accountability in such cases. In this sense, the country’s fragile democracy is built on an untenable silence; until Salvadoran society addresses the systematic violations of human rights that rent asunder the social fabric for so many years, the country’s justice system will remain unable to confront the crimes of the past or present.

Now is a pivotal moment for a concerted push for truth, justice, and reparations in El Salvador, involving strategic coordination between Salvadoran victims’ organizations and international actors. The CHR, in collaboration with the Instituto de Derechos Humanos at the Universidad Centroamericana (IDHUCA), is developing a project to apply important international justice precedents to the Salvadoran context, through the concerted application of national and international pressures for justice and a strengthening of grassroots movements within the country.”

Video

Seattle-ites Renew Fight for Justice in El Salvador’s Dirty Wars

The associated video (below) was produced in collaboration with Dacia Saenz for International Human Rights Day. Originally published in The Seattle Globalist on December 10, 2013.

A man pauses from constructing a poster of family victims of the armed conflict in El Salvador from 1980-1992.

A man pauses from constructing a poster of family victims of the armed conflict in El Salvador for the annual Victim’s Meeting (Encuentro de Victimas). Photo by Alex Montalvo

The solidarity that distinguished Seattle’s relationship to El Salvador in the 1980’s is reigniting once again. Last Thursday, representatives from 10 organizations met at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Seattle in support of a renewed movement for justice in El Salvador.

The event, La Voz de la Justicia: Human Rights at a Critical Juncture in El Salvador, was organized through the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights (UWCHR)and the Social Justice Committee of St. Patrick’s Church. It brought together groups with a long history of supporting human rights throughout the region.

So why now, more than 20 years after the end of official hostilities in El Salvador?

In early September, the Attorney General’s office in El Salvador announced that for the first time in the country’s history, investigations would be opened into the massacre at El Mozote and as many as 32 other wartime atrocities. A few weeks later, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court accepted a challenge to the constitutionality of the amnesty law.

A decision on the amnesty law is now expected literally any day,” says Angelina Godoy, Director of UWCHR. “These are things victims have been struggling to achieve for decades. There’s a sense of real possibility now, one that didn’t exist before.”

Photo of a man at the annual “Meeting of Victims” reading a poem written by the father of a child killed by the military in El Salvador.

A man at the annual “Meeting of Victims” reads a poem written by the father of a child killed by the military in El Salvador. The sombrero on the placard was worn by the son during his death. (Photo by Alex Montalvo)

From 1980 to 1992, over 75,000 civilians died in the bloody armed conflict in El Salvador. Thousands more were brutally tortured or “disappeared.” Hostilities officially came to an end with peace accords in 1992, and as part of the peace process, a UN-sponsored Truth Commission was tasked with investigating wartime atrocities. Their investigation found approximately 85% of the violence occurred at the hands of the Salvadoran government.

But just five days after the release of the Truth Commission’s report in March, 1993, the Salvadoran legislature passed an Amnesty Law that has since been used to effectively shield people in positions of power from prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Many Salvadorans have been fighting for justice and reparations ever since.

The sad truth for Americans is that the armed conflict was heavily funded by our government. In an attempt to make El Salvador a leading example of Cold War policy, the U.S. provided the Salvadoran government upwards of $5 billion, despite awareness of government involvement in egregious human rights abuses.

But concerned citizens across the globe reacted strongly to these abuses and the subsequent involvement of the U.S. government.

Seattle, in particular, was front and center in the movement to stop the war. In 1983 voters passed the “Peace in Central America Initiative” which declared opposition to the United States support of the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and established a Citizens’ Commission on Central America that included over twenty local organizations like El Centro de La Raza, the Catholic Archdiocese, and the University of Washington. Many Seattle parishes participated in the sanctuary movement, providing shelter to refugees from the Central American conflicts.

Today, the University of Washington is back to supporting human rights in the region. Since 2011, UWCHR and The Institute for Human Rights at the University of Central America (IDHUCA) in San Salvador have been collaborating on activities aimed at addressing core challenges to the rule of law in El Salvador.

Though there have been a lot of positive developments in El Salvador recently, there are also strong signs that those who oppose the justice movement are still willing to resort to criminality to protect themselves. At the end of September, 2013, the Catholic Church closed down one of the country’s main human rights organizations, leaving the victims in cases like the massacre at El Mozote suddenly without access to legal representation, and even without access to their own case files.

Even groups who search for missing children are being targeted. During a recent trip to El Salvador, we documented the emotional return of Marina Lopez (adopted name Marina Llewelyn) to Arcatao, El Salvador, for the first time since her childhood.

Marina had been taken from her family by the Salvadoran military, but was reunited through the human rights organization Pro-Búsqueda, who work to discover the whereabouts of disappeared children and reunite them with surviving family members. Pro-Búsqueda conducted research for over two decades to find Marina.

Sadly, just three days after Marina’s reunion, Pro-Búsqueda was attacked and its offices firebombed, destroying some three-quarters of their files. These recent attacks are what prompted the recent “La Voz” event held at St. Patricks.

The City of Seattle is taking notice of local efforts for justice in El Salvador once again.Today, on International Human Rights Day, The UW Center for Human Rights is set to receive an award from the City. Godoy says she sees the award as recognition not just of the UWCHR, but of all the UW students, and the many people in El Salvador who have been involved in the effort.

“What makes our work so powerful is the way it’s rooted in partnerships with those on the front lines of human rights struggles, folks like the committee of survivors we just met with in Arcatao, El Salvador,” Godoy said. “I wish those women and men could also step up to the podium and be recognized, for they’re really the ones who are teaching us about what human rights mean.”

For more information about human rights in El Salvador, and to demand a full investigation into the attack on Pro-Búsqueda, please visit www.unfinishedsentences.org.