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Juan Sebastián Aragón,
Manuel José Chávez
Rodrigo and his friends are bored teenagers living in Medellin. Rodrigo wants to start a punk band. The youths mainly loaf around the hillside shanty towns and, for kicks, steal a bike or car, or shoot someone.
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Jackson Idrian Gallego
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Manuel, 9, has an old ball with which he plays football every day in the countryside. He dreams of becoming a great goalkeeper. His wishes seem set to come true when Ernest, his father, gives him a new ball. But an unexpected accident sends the ball flying into a minefield. Despite the danger, Manuel refuses to abandon his treasure... He convinces Julián and Poca Luz, his two friends, to rescue it with him. Amid the adventures and kids' games, the signs of armed conflict start to appear in the lives of the inhabitants of 'La Pradera'. Written by
Carlos César Arbeláez, the listed as the director started by making documentaries in the Nineties including Cómo llegar al cielo, El cine en casa, Casa de mujeres and Negro profundo. This was his his first fictional feature film, and his background of aiming a camera at real people and settings is clearly seen.
IMDb does not for some reason list the writer, but if you follow the link to the trailer, at the end it says "escrita y dirigida" which means that Arbelaez both wrote and directed this film; it is his baby, and how proud he should be. The dialog and actions of the characters could very well have been from a documentary, and this includes everyone from the focal adults to the incredible children and even the toddlers and the "attack" dog.
This film depicted something that we who live in an ordered political system, even if far from any ideal, never have to experience first hand, a world of eternal lethal conflict where there is no way to opt out and choose to live peacefully. The genius of this film was that the horror of this existence was seen through the innocent eyes of children, in this case who had the comfort of their simple home, family and friends. We sensed the danger around them, but felt somehow protected from it, as they did.
And their brand new soccer ball that was the gift to nine year old Manuel by his struggling farm family that was to provide pleasure to the whole gang of kids. A simple toy, that happened to fall down a ravine that while almost accessible, was in a field that had been strewn with mines by the guerrilla forces that were demanding fealty from Manuel's father.
How close was the ball to being reached and saved, as close as the vulnerable families who were beset by violence with no way to escape it. How simple and pure is a ball, a device that combined with human creativity can focus the energies of children, and of adults to crescendos of exuberance, whether in a vast stadium or a simple flat area among the hills of a desolate farm community.
A true work of rare artless art.
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