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If the Mango Tree Could Speak

by Pat Goudvis

Ten children ages 12 to 15 share their experiences growing up in the midst of war in Guatemala and El Salvador

This documentary intimately portrays ten boys and girls growing up in the midst of war in Guatemala and El Salvador. The children--ages 12 to 15--talk about war and peace, justice, ethnic identity, friendship and marriage. In a series of touching vignettes, they share their dreams and hopes as well as their pain and loss. The video opens in the breathtaking Guatemalan highlands, home to the country's Mayan population. DIEGO watches the remains of his father being excavated from a mass grave. He talks about what it's like to live in the same tiny community with the people who killed his father. DORA, whose family is displaced, faces the challenge of maintaining her Mayan identity. SEBASTIAN's village is hidden deep in a remote area where the army and guerrillas are still fighting. He struggles to go to school in spite of the fear and danger. In San Jos Las Flores, El Salvador, CHICO places a cross on the grave site of his relatives killed in the war, as he talks about punishment for those responsible. YESENIA and ANA collect wood, discuss their friends and birthday presents, and recount the days spent hiding in a trench during the war. We accompany GIOVANI--a war veteran at age 14--to search for his mother among a group of returned refugees. JUAN, who grew up in an orphanage, explains why there was a war and the high price his family paid. The children's stories are disturbing but their resilience toward the harsh reality around them brings hope. Their comments are honest, insightful, and occasionally humorous. More than anything, their spirits are inspiring and their characters unforgettable.

quoteStunning...only the faces and voices of children, speaking candidly, simply and perceptively about the reality of living in countries under siege.
Linda Matchan
The Boston Globe

Linda Matchan
The Boston Globe
full review

Nancy McCray
full review

Margaret Fein
Video Rating Guide for Libraries, Vol.5, No.3
full review

quoteVery moving...Children should not be pawns of war, or victims of war, or soldiers in war... No adult of conscience or faith should be silent about this.
Marian Wright Edelman
Children's Defense Fund

More Reviews


  • Silver Apple, National Educational Film and Video Festival
  • NRK, Norway
  • UR/Swedish Educational Television, Sweden
  • Humanist Broadcasting Company (Nederland 1 Network)
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Cine Accion Festival Latino
  • Chicago Latino Film Festival
  • Vermont International Film Festival
  • Silver Plaque Award, INTERCOM
  • UNICEF Award, New England Children's Film and Video Festival
  • Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
  • Judges Honorable Mention, New England Film and Video Festival
  • Chicago International Children's Film Festival
  • Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival
  • Discovery: Latin America

Visit the official website for If the Mango Tree Could Speak

If the Mango Tree Could Speak

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Appropriate for: Middle School High School College/University

Special Features:

DVD includes both English and Spanish versions VHS Spanish version available separately Study Guide available

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