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I'm from El Salvador and went to see the movie yesterday with my wife.
First, it's unbelievable that the government allowed this film to be
presented in the country. Usually they forbid the showings of any movie
that touches the topic of the war because they want to erase the
memories of war to present the image of a new country, but without
learning from the mistakes of our past.
Second, I've seen a couple of movies about El Salvador (Oliver Stone's Salvador and Romero) and I gotta say that this movie is the most accurate depiction of the environment of wartime in El Salvador. The forceful recruitment depicted in the movie was an everyday ordeal for most families of humble status, with the army stopping the bus and taking all young men to the barracks.
I have just seen the movie here in El Salvador, where I am on vacation.
My parents are both Salvadoran, and I have visited here many times, as
well as resided here for several years. I remember visiting during war
time, seeing soldiers with their guns, though i was a very young child
unaware of the true situation.
This movie brought to light the horrible scenes and awful truths of the atrocities that occurred during the war, and that still happen in warfare today. Looking through the eyes of an eleven-year-old child in fear of recruitment, you are brought straight into the war and his life. Everyone in the audience had heard good things about the movie, and in turn agreed; we applauded when the movie was over. There is humor, romance, and of course, tragedy. Some parts were almost unbearable to watch, but then the movie is portraying a reality that we should not and cannot ignore.
I strongly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone, and I hope they will soon bring it to the U.S. and abroad.
I just read all of your comments guys..it doesn't matter which side mistreated kids more..the fact is kids were recruited to fight...i come from Lebanon, a country that knew 15 years of civil war..and yes in my country too, kids fought side to side with militias..."Voces Innocentes" is for me a very sad movie..it tickles our state of mind in the sense that it reminds us that life isn't as pleasant anywhere else on earth..here El Salvador is shown torn by civil war, but elsewhere daily wars are still going on (Darfour in Ethiopia, Sida in Africa, poverty in India...) I received the movie from Mexico..It is a shame it was only shown here in Canada in Toronto's Film Festival..Movies like "Voces Innocentes" should be made known to the public...Instead of bombarding people with loads of commercial pointless movies, let them think for a change...
I watched it on the release week in El Salvador on December 26th 2004.
It was the first country in which the movie was shown commercially.
What can I say? ALMOST NO WORDS, but WONDERFUL.
I am thirty years old now and by that time I was a kid just like CHAVA. I personally had to flee from El Salvador's Army forced recruitment a couple of times, so the movie was a flashback for me. I cried remembering those nights when bullets were flying over my house.
WAR is a crime no matter what the objective is and specially if innocence is stolen from children.
The movie travels through every place in which children are forced to take a weapon in their innocent hands: Africa, Middle-East, Asia, Colombia, etc; or to every place in which children suffer the consequences of war.
For those who has not lived a war by themselves and enjoy watching the news about IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, ISRAEL, COLOMBIA it is time to think about what you can do in order to stop this human massacre in the name of "freedom" .
I just saw this film (World Premiere)the final day of the Toronto International Film Festival on September 18. It is in Spanish with English subtitles. The film, set in El Salvador during the years of civil war in the '80s, is told through the voice and eyes of 11-year old Chava. He lives with his mother, two brothers and a sister in a cardboard-house in a village, and at age 12 will be 'eligible' to be taken into the "ejercito" (army). The acting is superb-both principals and supporting cast- as is the directing and pacing. This film will leave you moved both to tears and to admiration for the human spirit. Though the two hours seemed to pass in minutes, thinking about this film will last for many years. I really felt I was present "on the set". Both the director(Luis Mandoki) and the screenplay writer(Oscar Torres, who was the boy in the film) were present for an emotional and uplifting Q&A. I could only give this film a 10 and hope it will be distributed in as many countries as possible.
I saw this film in El Salvador, while I was on vacation visiting
relatives. It is a very good film. Somehow, I'd hoped that it would be
this good. I have seen previous films about El Salvador, from
"Salvador" by Oliver Stone to "Romero", but none of those films come
close to portraying how this civil war affected thousands of civilians.
The film depicts the story of Chava, an 11 year-old boy, whose main
concern is that as soon as he turns 12 he will be recruited by the
Military to fight the Guerillas. Through his eyes, we see the
atrocities that are brought upon his family,friends and his own life.
Though it is set in El Salvador, this could be a story from anywhere
around the world, where a Civil War breaks out and the effects on its
The characters are well written; the plot well told and the actors, especially, the kid playing Chava are very good. It is void of any clichés as many films when dealing with delicate subjects such as a civil war. You can see that these are real people going through a great ordeal, unlike "Salvador" or even "Romero" whose characters and plots were obviously made up based on facts read on news papers. I highly recommend this film to everyone who wants to see the reality of war and its consequences on the lives of innocent people.
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.
I also saw this movie and can testify that it's 90% accurate regarding
how the civil war really was. But it's still a left-wing flick, it
tilts that way. For instance, it showed us the brutality of the
right-wing military but never once did it mentioned the atrocities of
the communist guerrillas. I for one lived in El Salvador during the
civil war and can say it was an ugly, nasty war. Most of the atrocities
were committed by the communist left-wing guerrillas. They also
committed massacres en-masse of civilians.
There still DOESN'T exist ONE flick about the Salvadoran civil war which showed BOTH sides of the atrocities. All of them are left-leaning.
Anyways, let's pardon this movie for neglecting to show us the atrocities of the other side (communist guerrillas) and let's focus on the cinematography.... it was excellent, excellent cinematography, I liked the attention to detail in this movie, the recruitments and the sudden barrages of gunfire.. that's exactly how this war was. Boys were forcefully drafted into the army and thrown into battle-infested areas as soon as they reached 12, sometimes younger (amazing that this movie neglected to depict the fact that the guerrillas were worse, they took kids at 9 years of age and gave them Ak-47's to attack military bases).
Anyways, I really enjoyed this "coming of age" movie in a war-torn country, at least it was accurate and not preposterous like James Wood's/Oliver Stone's 1985 "Salvador".
I just saw this film at the Seattle International Film Festival
premiere and I enjoyed it immensely. I was a little apprehensious as I
am a big fan of Oliver Stone's Salvador and I didn't think there was
much more to say on the topic. But I must say that Voces Innocentes
managed to bring something new to the table thru the innovative idea of
telling the story thru the eyes of children. Adding to its poignancy is
the fact that it's all based on the true life story of Oscar Orlando
Torres, called by his nickname Chava in the film. Torres was present at
the screening tonight and few who stayed to listen to him were not
moved by his words and life experience. First time actor Carlos Padilla
portrays Chava in the film, and his outstanding performance is a credit
as much to director Luis Mandoki as it is to himself. The gorgeous
Leonor "Cleopatra" Varela also shows she is much more than a pretty
face, putting in a very moving performance as Chava's mother. The rest
of the cast is also routinely superb, including Spaniard Daniel Giménez
Cacho as the priest and Jesus Ochoa (uncredited on IMDb) as the bus
driver. Voces Inocentes was filmed in Jalapa, Mexico and produced by
the Mexican company Altavista Films (Amorres Perros, Todo el Poder,
Nicotina). The cinematography and editing are world class, and the
magnificent score really puts the film over the top. Torres told us
that the main theme (played on the guitar by his uncle and in the
closing credits) was his inspiration for writing the screenplay and
it's not hard to see how he was moved by it.
According to Torres, the film will receive a wider US release in September '05 and the DVD release will follow sometime after that.
A final note: despite complaints to the contrary I don't think that the film necessarily took a strong side in the conflict. The government troops definitely weren't portrayed well but the acts of the rebels were neither so glorious. As Torres told us, this film wasn't so much a political statement as "the real life memories of a child". Highly recommended.
This movie was incredible in many ways, not the least of which was how it depicted life in a war in such a matter-of-fact manner. People leaving the theater where I saw it were in tears, many of them. The fact that the story is not fiction, and the fact that many just like it happen all over the world even today, made it so much more powerful. The best and the worst of the human being were depicted and it made me wonder how is it that one often brings out the other in us. I found myself sitting with clinched fists, full of rage and anger, anger at what I was seeing, anger at my own impotence as a spectator not being able to interfere... I wish viewing movies like this was mandatory for Congress before they ever authorize another war. This movie certainly stirred up a lot of emotion, but most of all it made me feel grateful for the childhood that I had.
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