Movie Review: State of Fear

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
STATE OF FEAR: THE TRUTH ABOUT TERRORISM – the acclaimed documentary by veteran filmmakers Paco de Onis, Pamela Yates and Peter Kinoy - is a lucid and affecting account of the terror, violence, and betrayal that gripped Peru for two decades starting in 1980. Based on the findings of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it chronicles Peru’s war on terror starting with the birth of the violent Maoist guerrilla cult Shining Path, and the atrocities they perpetrated in the name of justice. Philosophy professor turned Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman took advantage of poor conditions for indigenous Peruvians, and encouraged his followers to “cross a river of blood” to bring about paradise on earth. STATE OF FEAR elucidates how President Fujimori capitalized on the citizens’ fear of terrorism, dismantling democratic institutions, including Congress, and ensuring his autocratic control.

Finally, we learn how the Peruvian citizens organize and reclaim their democracy. In 2000 the Peruvians people protested in droves, forced Fujimori out of the country, and restored their democratic institutions. The new government established a Truth Commission to investigate the 20 violent years in which over 70,000 people were killed. Over 17,000 Peruvians came forward to tell their stories.

Using archival footage, personal testimony, interviews, and narration, this vibrant doc gives us a clear picture of the treachery that occurred, and introduces us to individuals who are affected by the slaughter and oppression.

STATE OF FEAR is a fascinating, well-paced saga with a familiar theme: how unscrupulous corrupt leaders can control with fear, and manipulate for their own power. It clarifies what happened in Peru and can be viewed as a cautionary tale for any country. Similar dynamics occurred in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Mao’s China, and currently in Burma. Exploitation of fear is a common theme that we’ve seen in Hitler’s German. Some critics of the Bush administration have accused them of using fear to strip away rights and push their agendas. STATE OF FEAR shows how easily it can be done with the right conditions.

For more information about STATE OF FEAR, or to purchase or rent the DVD, go to:

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.
More Information:
State of Fear
Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy and Paco de Onis