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Thunder in Guyana
A film by Suzanne Wasserman
Guyana/US, 2003, 50 minutes, Color/BW, DVD
Order No. W04819
THUNDER IN GUYANA is the remarkable tale of Janet Jagan, a young woman from Chicago who married Guyanese activist Cheddi Jagan, and set off for the British colony to start a socialist revolution. For more than fifty years, the couple fought tirelessly to liberate the country from colonial rule and exploitation—despite battering by the international press, imprisonment and the intervention of world figures including Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. Free and fair elections were instituted in the early 90's, and Janet Jagan was elected president of Guyana in 1997, the first foreign-born and first woman to serve in the role.

Historian Suzanne Wasserman (Jagan’s cousin) creates a rich historical portrait combining interviews with friends and family, excerpts from Janet’s letters, archival photographs and footage, and video captured during Janet’s dramatic presidential campaign. The film, with cinematography by Sundance Award winner Debra Granik, illuminates the life of an extraordinary woman and the complex history of the little understood country of Guyana.


  • CINE Golden Eagle Award
  • Boston Jewish Film Festival - Best Documentary Audience Award
  • Myhelan Indie Film Festival - Best Documentary
  • Margaret Mead Film Festival
  • IFP/Film Society of Lincoln Center "Independents Night"
  • San Francisco, Washington, and Montreal Jewish Film Festivals
  • Gene Siskel Film Center of Chicago
  • Chicago Latino Film Festival

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    “Highly recommended.”
    Bred Eden, PhD
    Educational Media Reviews Online

    “Fascinating…a little known story in the United States, that deserves telling, highly recommended for public libraries or academic libraries with collections in Latin American studies.”
    Orlando Archibeque Reforma

    “A noble project, blending an overview of Cold War politics, decolonialism, racial issues, and socialism into a narrative account of a one woman’s extraordinary life.”
    Laura Shumar
    The Coordinating Council on Women’s History Newsletter

    “An amazing story, compellingly told.”
    Mike Wallace
    Distinguished Prof of History, John Jay College & Pulitzer Prize-winning writer

    "Suzanne Wasserman's film, THUNDER IN GUYANA, offers a useful and intriguing perspective on aspects of Janet Jagan's life and contributions in terms of Guyanese society… the film raises valuable questions about the complications of identity. "
    Veronica Gregg
    Africana and Puerto Rican-Latino Studies, Hunter College

    "THUNDER IN GUYANA is a stirring and poignant study of sustained political commitment and its consequences. How an American Jewish woman improbably became the head of state of a decolonizing Latin American nation is the stuff of legend, and director Suzanne Wasserman has made a truly engrossing film that weaves this saga into contemporary history.”
    Stephen J. Whitfield
    Professor of American Studies, Brandeis University

    “THUNDER IN GUYANA is a moving video tribute that should be seen by anyone interested in learning about anti-colonial struggles, radical ideas and the strength and power of one extraordinary woman to transform the world.”
    Dr. Stephen Brier
    The Graduate Center, CUNY

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    Thunder in Guyana is included in the following Special Collections.
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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us