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Thunder in Guyana

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Women Make Movies
Directed by Suzanne Wasserman
VHS, color, 50 min.
Sr. High - Adult
South American Studies, Area Studies, Biography, Human Rights, Postcolonialism, Political Science, Women's Studies

Reviewed by Brad Eden, Ph.D., Head, Web and Digitization Services, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 12/19/2003

This video is a biography/documentary of the life of Janet Rosenberg Jagan, an atypical Jewish-American girl who in 1997 became the President of Guyana in South America. The director of the film, Suzanne Wasserman, is a cousin of Jagan, and her personal comments, family history, and narration lend a human touch to the story.

As a college student, Janet Rosenberg met Cheddi Jagan, a native of British Guyana, whom she married at a time when both racial and ethnic cross-marriages were taboo (Rosenberg was Jewish and white, Jagan was South American). In 1943, the two went to British Guiana to start a socialist revolution that would eventually bring massive change and democracy to the British colony. In 1953, Cheddi Jagan became the first democratically elected prime minister of British Guyana, and the first Marxist president in the Western Hemisphere. Winston Churchill was so upset, that he kicked Jagan out of office, and the United States began covert operations against him in the 1960s. For 28 years after this, Guyana was ruled by a former friend of Jagan's, who in essence became a dictator, and made Guyana the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. During this time, both Cheddi and Janet worked ceaselessly for the Guayanese people and their situation. Finally, in 1992, Cheddi Jagan became president of Guyana in the first free election in over 28 years. Cheddi died of a heart attack on March 3, 1997, and Janet decided to run for president. Just a few months after her husband's death, Janet was elected as the first foreign-born, female president of Guyana.

This film is even more remarkable in that it is Wasserman's directorial debut. The film is interspersed with archival film footage, interviews, and historical commentary, and is a fascinating look at the life of a remarkable woman. Thunder in Guyana is highly recommended for the areas of South American studies and women's studies, and as a wonderful documentary and biography of one woman's struggle in the areas of human rights, postcolonialism, and politics.