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Ballade vom kleinen Soldaten (1984)

The film focuses on a group of Miskito Indians in Nicaragua who used children soldiers in their resistance against the Sandinistas.
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Denis Reichle ...
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The film focuses on a group of Miskito Indians in Nicaragua who used children soldiers in their resistance against the Sandinistas.

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Release Date:

3 April 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ballad of the Little Soldier  »

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1.33 : 1
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Werner Herzog: We didn't know that the last cow in the village was slaughtered to honor us.
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User Reviews

 
less a documentary than something to submit to Human Rights Watch...
8 July 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

... In other words, Ballad of the Little Soldier from Werner Herzog - in collaboration with photojournalist Denis Richie - is kind of impossible to give a real 'rating' to. This serves really as a document of human rights abuse - in large part with child soldiers (that is, at about the 25 minute mark) - than a typical documentary. If you've seen some of Herzog's other docs (think Fata Morgana or Herdsman of the Sun) there's none of the self conscious style one finds in his non fiction (no one looks in a stylized meditative pose at the camera). his recent Death Row docs if anything are much closer in showing the devastation of thev human spirit - point, talk, and shoot.

What you get in Little Soldier is: 'This is what's happening in Honduras, people are being killed by the Sandinistas, people are being herded up into refugee camps that will not last a month, families are torn asunder, and indigenous India children are being trained to kill in turn'. We're given a lot of narration here from Herzog, and it's necessary: this is like a Frontline piece that is trying to get in a lot of information in a short amount of time. I only wish this were longer as at 45 minute there's really only so much time, though I wonder if some of their access was limited (at one point they show the start of a battle, with adult troops off a river-boat, and as much danger Herzog could get I sensed there was only so much war documentarian in this case).

What stays with you while watching it and once it's over are the faces of these children, shown plainly, occasionally singing on camera - this may be the closest to something that isn't 'just happening' as it's going on, but here I took away that we see there is still humanity in these children, they can still sing songs and respond to joy - and then being trained to fire guns and missiles. The narration is blunt and to the point, and only near the end does Richie put his perspective on it all. It's horrific too to think how this is really the norm in many countries to this day; one thinks of those in African areas especially, or Boko Haram.

An adult soldier comments at one point the children were braver than the adults to fight against Communism... like they'd know better! Ballad of the Little Soldier may be one of the deadliest/ serious films the Bavarian director made, and it packs a gut punch for how it just looks on at this people ripped apart by the Sandinistas and the war machine that rose up in Central America in the 80's. There's fire here.


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