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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
Los Colores de la Montaña (The Colors of the Mountain) is one of the more delicate and sophisticated films to deal with warring factions in South American countries to come along in a long time. Written and directed by newcomer Carlos César Arbeláez this story is wise because it explains the work through the eyes of children: perhaps that is the best way to understand the conflicts that flood the planet at present.
Set is the lush and picturesque mountains of Colombia, we gradually discover through the games of the children that there are two factions struggling for power in this remote area - the military of the government and the reactive guerrillas. Manuel (Hernán Mauricio Ocampo) is eight and loves soccer even though his soccer ball is an old collapsed mess of toy. He and his friends Julián (Nolberto Sánchez) and the little albino boy Poca Luz (Hernán Méndez) play soccer anyplace they can. Manuel also tends to his duties as a farmer's son (his father is devoted to him, sharing the chores, and protecting him and his wife and baby from the bilateral dangers of the military and the guerrillas): his parents reward him on his ninth birthday with a new soccer ball and gloves. Very proud, Manuel shares his treasure with his friends but accidentally the ball lands in a minefield (the result of the military invasion) and becomes inaccessible. The boys challenge Poca Luz to retrieve it but he fails. A new teacher comes to the village and brings order to the chaos the children feel. Discovering that Manuel colors pictures of his countryside in his notebook the teacher decides to use his talent that that of his friends to paint over political graffiti smeared on the schoolhouse: she loses her job. Rebel forces and military forces enter the village and families are forced to evacuate - but Manuel manages to recover his treasured new soccer ball in the midst of the senseless fighting the adults of his world are staging. After all, what is really important?!
The acting skills of these children are beautifully straightforward and unforced, thanks to the fine direction of Arbeláez. He manages to tell a tale that is tender, humorous, and meaningful and in the end it is the inherent pure wisdom of children that seems to be the sustaining factor in the little villages of the mountains of Colombia. The lush photography is by Oscar Jimenez. This is a very fine film that has already won awards in festival, but it is a film that is more important that it be shared by a very large audience. In Spanish with English subtitles.
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