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I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2005. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture " explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."
The film is set in war-torn El Salvador in the early 1980s. The in-power, repressive, government's army is fighting the peasant guerrilla movement. The residents of a rural poor town have the misfortune to be between the rebels and the army. Their homes in the town become incredibly dangerous, and they are always on the cusp of becoming destitute refugees.
There is no doubt who the bad guys are. The army has dictatorial powers and forcibly recruits boys into the army once they turn 12 years old. They also rape girls, execute anyone they are suspicious of regardless of age and sex, and harass the Catholic Church and its priest.
This story is told via a poor family consisting of a Mother, a 11-year old son (Chava), and a younger brother and older sister. They live in squalor and danger. The main character is Chava, and we see the plight of all the residents through his eyes as he is able to move around the town more easily as a child. He is also a typical boy in an atypical environment. He is foolhardy, fun-loving, brave, adventurous, and curious. He is determined to live his 11-year old life as normal as possible no matter what. And he does a good job of it for a while.
The Mother is heroic and courageous. She sacrifices everything for her children always trying to protect them and love them under the most gruesome circumstances.
It is hard not to be moved and sickened as you watch the story of the family and town unfold. The movie has a strong anti-United States bias because of the U.S. support for the army and the in-power regime.
The cinematography, art direction, and directing are excellent. And the boy, Chava, is amazingly believable and unaffected by the camera.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Crystal Heart winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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