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In an unnamed Latin American country that closely resembles Mexico, the government fights a rural insurgency with torture, assault, rape, and murder. Soldiers descend on a town, cutting off the rebels from their cache of ammunition hidden in a field. A family of grandfather, son, and grandson are among the rebels in the hills. The grandfather, with his violin over his shoulder, tries to pass the checkpoint, ostensibly to tend his corn crop. The commanding officer lets him pass but insists on a daily music lesson. Can the old man ferry out the ammunition in his violin case under the soldiers' nose? Written by
This low-key film brings to life the struggle between the army and rebellious peasants in 1970's Mexico through the words and actions of an unlikely hero, the elderly, diminutive Don Plutarco Hidalgo (played by Angel Tavira, a real-life violinist).
Plutarco, owner of the eponymous violin, is seen early on in the film playing his instrument to earn a living and to give expression to the feelings of himself and his companions. In the city he scratches a living from busking with the assistance of his son and grandson, but later his instrument offers consolation and catharsis to his fellow-villagers when they are uprooted from their homes by brutal Mexican soldiers in search of rebels harboured in the rural community.
When Plutarco has his violin confiscated by the local military commander and is forced to play for the latter's edification this eloquently communicates the way in which simple rural folk had their voices suppressed and their livelihoods taken away by army cruelty. Whilst Plutarco cunningly works to aid the rebels against the military there are shocking scenes of military brutality, which presage a bleak ending for the protagonists; by the end of this film I was among several members of the audience biting their nails with concern.
This is quite a short film (a little over an hour and a half) but its characters are powerfully portrayed and enlivened by well-written and sometimes witty dialogue. A special mention must be made for the black-and-white cinematography: the film looks superb.
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