Winner 2012

This American Life: What Happened at Dos Erres

WBEZ’s This American Life, ProPublica, Fundacion MEPI

This spellbinding documentary scrutinizes a Guatemalan civil-war atrocity and contextualizes its place in the long history of bloody conflict and political chaos in that country and the region. What makes the story especially powerful is how it’s personalized. At its center is the remarkable story of Oscar Ramirez. He was living in a Boston suburb in 2011 when he received a phone call from a prosecutor in Guatemala who had been investigating war crimes, including the 1982 Dos Erres slaughter. He had no memory of the village, let alone that he was one of the few survivors. But he was, and it turned out that the man who had raised him was actually a commander of the army unit that perpetrated the massacre. And as if one amazing twist weren’t enough, investigators subsequently discovered that Ramirez’ real father was still alive. The documentary was a massive undertaking, six months in the reporting. It interweaves the vivid, you-are-there remembrances of soldiers and survivors with historical references and statistics that broaden and deepen the listener’s knowledge of war crimes in countries such as Guatemala and how those horrific events are being addressed today. For finding and masterfully telling a war story at once unique and emblematic, This American Life: What Happened at Dos Erres receives a Peabody Award.


Executive Producer: Ira Glass. Producer: Brian Reed. Reporters: Habiba Nosheen, Brian Reed, Sebastian Rotella, Ana Arana. Editors: Ira Glass, Julie Snyder, Nancy Updike.