April 12, 2017 — In December, 1982, a massacre took place in Dos Erres, Guatemala.
Commandos working for the government entered the village and slaughtered more than 200 indigenous people — men women and children. It was part pf the government’s “scorched earth” policy; the people of the small village were thought to be in sympathy with the guerrilla forces battling the government.
The government forces brutalized the children first and threw their bodies into a well. Men were interrogated and killed, then thrown into the well. Pregnant women had fetuses ripped from their bodies, girls were raped then killed. People who arrived at the hamlet the next day, when the massacre was still going on, were killed a short distance away — the well was already full.
After the massacre ended and the population of the town had been killed, the government forces searched the area and failed to find any weaponry or guerrilla propaganda.
When the war had ended and the Human Rights and Truth Commission began investigating, a strange story started to come to light. It appeared that a three-year old boy, Oscar Alfredo Ramirez Casteneda, may have been spared. Upon further investigation it appeared that the little boy had been adopted by one of the men responsible for the massacre and the deaths of the boy’s family.
Oscar was tracked down, a process that took many years. He did not go by his original name, and if fact knew nothing of his family’s history. He was living in Massachusetts, working in a Mexican restaurant, and had a family of his own. The man who raised him had died.
In fact, he was not eager to learn about this new history. But he also came to realize that he was practically the only living evidence that could tie the Guatemalan government to their horrendous crimes.
Eventually, his DNA would incriminate several people, but, more surprising, it connected him to someone else — his actual father, who had been out of the village on the day of the massacre. The father believed that his wife and all of his nine children has been slaughtered. More than 30 years later, science and technology would connect him to his only living child.
The film was executive produced by Stephen Spielberg. The Hollywood Reporter called it “An absorbing documentary about an unlikely survival story.”
Finding Oscar opens theatrically this week. Check here for theaters and times.