(2004, Mexico) A young boy, in an effort to have a normal childhood in 1980's El Salvador, is caught up in a dramatic fight for his life as he desperately tries to avoid the war which is raging all around him.
Director: Luis Mandoki
Director: Luis Mandoki
Writers: Luis Mandoki (screenplay), Oscar Orlando Torres (screenplay)
Stars:Carlos Padilla, Leonor Varela and Xuna Primus
Innocent Voices has already been screened at a number of Human Rights Film Festivals and it has also received many awards.
Its subject is the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s and the critique of the aid, military and financial, which the US government had given to the El Salvador regime and to the training of Latin American forces at the School of America.
Director Luis Mandoki had made a moving film in his native Mexico about a mentally handicapped girl, Gaby, in 1987. It starred Liv Ulmann. It provided an entrée for Mandoki to Hollywood. During the 1990s, he made a string of popular films, American style. They included a story of an alcoholic woman, played by Meg Ryan, When a Man Loves a Woman, a sentimental drama with Kevin Costner and Paul Newman, Message in a Bottle, and, perhaps his best, White Palace, a personal drama with James Spader and Susan Sarandon.
By the beginning of the century, he had become tired of Hollywood projects and wanted to make something substantial and to work in Latin America. Providentially, he met an aspiring actor in Los Angeles, Oscar Orlando Torres, who had not succeeded in making a career for himself but had a story to tell and a screenplay he had written.
He had come from El Salvador with his mother and family. As a young boy during the 1980s, Oscar had experienced the abduction of children, boys about the age of ten. They were taken from reluctant parents by government forces to serve as soldiers in the military or by guerrilla squads to fight with them. The boys are trained, brainwashed into becoming little soldiers and little killers. The setting and location for Innocent Voices is the last town situated between the guerrilla stronghold and the capital.
Mandoki was able to go to Mexico to make his film and to construct sets in the jungle that would create an authentic picture of those times, only twenty years ago.
The situation is familiar to western audiences from the story of the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, who was killed in April 1980. The film immerses the audience in the hardships of an oppressed population. We experience the violent attacks on the town, the bombings and mutilations and deaths. The focus is on the children, the contrast between their lives at home and at school and their lethal transformation as they are drilled by the army commanders and taught how to use weapons.
Seeing this film offers a sober reminder of the induction of children into armies in our times, especially in Sierra Leone and the brutalisation of children in the contemporary war in northern Uganda. The Innocent Voices are turned into the aggressive sounds of lost innocence.
Innocent Voices is the kind of film that gives a face to the faceless.
by Peter Malone
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