The Film



As part of a new ‘Geopolitical’ format the footage of The Song Of The Quetzal combines the visual appeal and touristic inquisitiveness of a travel program, with an element of environmental reportage exploring the impact of events on the environment, local people and the effect on their society. As the journey unfolds the viewer is gently introduced to some of  the unpleasant realities which underly the current state of affairs in Guatemala today. It is only at the end that the quetzal itself is discoverd, an endangered symbol of hope for the future.The underlying theme is that of a transition state, that is to say one of those countries or peoples who are recovering from severe societal trauma, how they are coping, and whether the future really will be an improvement


Designed as a 20 min conventional popular documentary for TV it includes elements of all the ingredients outlined below. Capable of adaption for web-based documentary. Filmed with two cameras to broadcast quality standard. The basic structure/storyline is chronological (ie as filmed), and the includes  the inevitable problems encountered whilst filming in such a dangerous environment.


Presented by Hugo Charlton, an experienced practicing barrister and former Chairman of the Green Party, he brings his extensive travel experience (first as a whisky salesman, subsequently as an international Human Rights lawyer) and political and social analysis to this fascinating and increasingly significant part of the world.  


Initially the film adopts a conventional touristic approach, which is intended to assist the local economy by highlighting new and interesting travel destinations for the adventurous tourist. Next time we will be looking at  examples (if any) of  ‘sustainable’ forestry,  attempts will be made to discover the methods and effects of illegal logging and to explore the unsavoury but mutually beneficial relationship between the drugs trade and the illegal logging industry. 


Guatemala is a textbook example of the type of country the geopolitical travelogue is intended to examine. It has been through traumatic internal conflict with accompanying human rights abuses and, following heroic attempts at nation building, faces new dangers which threaten its attempts to bring justice and peace to its people. In this case the threat is from drug-related gang violence and, following the arrival of a new Government on January 14, potential militarization in an attempt to control it.


At the same time it is a country of immense (and importantly) photogenic beauty with a well developed tourist industry and a fascinating cultural heritage provided by world class Mayan ruins. Set romantically in the jungle and topically said to herald in a new world order on December 23 2012 with the end of the 25,000 year Long Count Calendar.


Finally it typifies current environmental challenges and, crucially,the need for solutions. The devastation of the rainforest through mining and illegal logging is to be countered by Guatemala’s participation in the UN REDD+ carbon emission control program, and the designation of the national bird of Guatemala, the uniquely plumaged Quetzal, as ‘Near Threatened’ will provide an opportunity to explore conservation methods and eco-tourism in the cloud gardens of the Guatemalan highlands.


The core of the film is  centred on the search for and the threats posed to the Quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala.  The quetzal illustrates the condition of the country and the planet – beautiful but endangered.


The bird has also given its name to the great Mayan God Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of the sky and wisdom. The bird represents freedom and spiritual power whose feathers decorated the headdress for the Mayan Kings, and provides us with a metaphor to link the environment with the Mayan culture and history of surviving oppression. The message is subtle, and intended to leave the viewer wanting to know more.