Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands Mark D. Walker

Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands
A Documentary Film Production

Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands

Climate change, unemployment, and relentless grinding poverty—these are the underpinnings of the current migration crisis. There is also the historic reality of land and economic inequality and the nationwide infestation of the narco trade which has led to near total government dysfunction.

Guatemala: Trouble In The Highlands, which began production several months ago, will spotlight what has happened in the past, what is currently occurring to fuel the U.S. border crisis and what can be done to change the course of a cruel history. The production team expects to have the film done at the end of this year.

Through the eyes of three generations, the Estrada family tells the stories of how migration has traumatized their Guatemalan village of Cajolá. Following family members, grandfather Aapo, son Eduardo and granddaughter Izabella, Guatemala: Trouble In The Highlands will viewers an up-close and personal understanding of this crisis.

Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, in 2018 the influx of undocumented immigrants into the United States reached a 10-year high of more than 115,000 and had surpassed that number in early 2019. The Pew Research Center reports that Guatemalans represent the second-largest group of undocumented Latino immigrants (after El Salvador) trying to enter the U.S. The world watched as streams of people walked, rode, and took perilous train rides across hundreds of miles to reach the U.S. border. Where once the majority of these migrants were young males seeking work, the latest influx includes families and children, many of whom seek asylum.

The sharp political divide in the U.S. along partisan lines has made dialogue, and effective legislation, nearly impossible. Public opinion is equally divided, either sympathetic towards those seeking asylum or demonizing the migrants as thieves, drug dealers and rapists. The migrants’ reasons for fleeing Guatemala are as diverse as the geography of the Guatemalan Highlands. Those planning to leave know it is dangerous to make the trip, but they are desperate.

Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands

Initial interviews have been recorded both the U.S. and Guatemala and additional interviews are lined up. The script is in the draft stage and planning is underway for the next production trip to Guatemala.

Producer: Mark Walker was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. With an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas in Austin, he spent over forty years with groups helping in developing countries. His book, “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond” was recognized by the Arizona Literary Association literary contest for non-fiction. Over twenty of his articles have been published in literary magazines and one essay, “Hugs not Walls: Returning the Children,” was a winner in the Arizona Authors Association 2019 Literary Contest.

Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands

Director/Cinematographer: Hal Rifken has worked for numerous cable and broadcast networks domestically and abroad. His Peace Corps experience in Bolivia has led him to projects that explore inter-cultural issues, particularly as they relate to Latin America. He just completed a documentary on the Shanghai Quartet, a 5-year project that followed the string quartet to concerts and festivals around the States, Asia, Europe and Latin America (“Behind The Strings” is scheduled to premiere winter, 2020).

Editor: Tracy Cring is an award-winning editor with more than thirty feature films. The films she’s worked on have been widely distributed, won multiple awards, and been appreciated by audiences across the globe. NBC Nightly News featured her work for Danseur. Recently “No History of Violence,” which she edited throughout production for four years, was honored for its social and humanitarian efforts.

Consultant: Alana DeJoseph’s latest feature documentary production is the institutional history of the Peace Corps, “A Towering Task.” Alana was associate producer of the PBS documentaries “The Greatest Good” (about the U.S. Forest Service) and “Green Fire” (about conservationist Aldo Leopold) with screenings at 29 film festivals from Colorado to India and New Zealand.

Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands

To view the trailer and for more information, which includes partners, a photo gallery, a series of additional resources about Guatemala and immigration, how to support this effort and contact the producers, please visit the films new website:

About the author
Mark D. Walker


Mark’s passion for Guatemala started as a Peace Corps volunteer, followed by a career working for eight international organizations including MAP International, Make-A-Wish International, and as the CEO of Hagar, which works with survivors of human trafficking.

According to Midwest Review, his book, “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” a story of one man’s physical and spiritual journey of self-discovery through Latin American, African, European and Asian topography, cuisine, politics, and history.

His most recent article, “My Life in the Land of the Eternal Spring” takes place on a coffee plantation in Guatemala and was published by Wising Up Press as part of the Crossing Class: The Invisible Wall anthology.

“The Making of the Kingdom of Mescal: An Indian Adult Fairy Tale” was published in the print Revue in April 2018.

Mark is a board member of Partnering for Peace and Advance Guatemala and was the recipient of the Service-Above Self Award from Rotary International. His wife and three children were born in Guatemala.

REVUE magazine article by Mark D. Walker

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