César Diaz

Being from Guatemala, and having seen a lot of films and studied in Paris and Brussels made me understand the importance of artistic action and the human journey.

An exiled and active filmmaker, César Diaz retraces the recent history of the Guatemalan dictatorship in these documentary films. In 2019, he produced his first feature-length documentary, Nuestras Madres (Our Mothers), which in the same year won at Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival.

Published on 19/09/2019

2 min

César Diaz's story is that of a Guatemalan political exile, fresh from winning the Caméra d'Or award at Cannes in 2019. Born in 1978 in a country in the midst of armed conflict, he was forced to travel to Mexico to study art and cinema. He then joined the FEMIS (French National Graduate School of Image and Sound Professions) scriptwriting workshop in Paris, and specialised in editing. For some ten years, he has worked between Paris and Brussels as a director, scriptwriter and editor. César Diaz has produced two documentaries in which he addresses the issue, central to him, of civil war in his country: Semillas de Cenizas (2010) and Territorio Liberado (2014). 2019 marks the release of his first feature-length fiction film, Nuestras Madres, selected for the 58th Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival.

The director recalls the 36 years of civil war that engulfed Guatemala until 1996. His mastery of the art of documentary allows him to “name things so that they become real”. It builds tangible stories, supported by the strength of the testimonies of those who still bear the stigma of a troubled past. Bolstered by the testimonies of women who survived the massacre of a village on the Guatemalan highlands, he decided to shoot his first fiction film, Nuestras Madres (2019), presented at Critics’ Week at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, for which he received the prestigious Caméra d’Or award for best first work, and the SACD prize. A tribute to “the 250,000 victims of this genocide and all the women who remain standing and give us a huge lesson in life”.

César Diaz has won awards at several international festivals such as the Berlinale (Germany), the Montreal World Film Festival (Canada), the Biarritz International Audiovisual Programme Festival (France), the Amsterdam International Film Festival (Netherlands) and the Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland). César Diaz predicts that Guatemalan cinema will open up to the world: “The time has come when people say to each other in Guatemala: "We know how to make films". This is a historic moment since Ixcanul (2015) by Jayro Bustamante paved the way for Guatemalan cinema.

  • 2010


    César Diaz directs his first documentary film, Semillas de Cenizas.

  • 2011


    César Diaz joins the FEMIS scriptwriting workshop after studying scriptwriting in Belgium.

  • 2015


    He works on the editing of Ixcanul by his fellow countryman Jayro Bustamante, which wins a Silver Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany.

  • 2019


    The release of his first feature-length fiction film, Nuestras Madres. He wins the Caméra d’or and the SACD (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers) awards at Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The Institut français and the director

In 2017, César Diaz received support from the Aide aux cinémas du monde (Aid for World Cinema) programme for his film Nuestras Madres. This Institut français programme provides support to foreign film-makers for film projects co-produced with France, whether they be feature-length fiction, animated films or creative documentaries. Find out more about the Aide aux cinémas du monde programme here.

L'institut français, LAB