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INNOCENT VOICES

Director: LUIS MANDOKI

MEXICO-U.S.A.-PUERTO RICO 2004 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 111 MIN


FOLLOWING A LENGTHY SPELL IN HOLLYWOOD, MEXICAN-BORN DIRECTOR LUIS MANDOKI RETURNS TO LATIN AMERICAN THEMES FOR THIS POIGNANT YET HARROWING ACCOUNT OF A FAMILY CAUGHT UP IN EL SALVADOR’S CIVIL WAR OF THE EIGHTIES.
Based on the real experiences of co-scriptwriter Oscar Torres, Innocent Voices focuses on Chava (Carlos Padilla), a spirited 11-year-old who lives with his sister, younger brother and hardworking mother (Leonor Varela) in an impoverished village located between two warring factions: the right-wing government forces and the left-wing guerrillas. The tensions of battle are all around, and for Chava this is an especially dangerous time. His 12th birthday is approaching and the army begins drafting boys when they reach that age. Even so, Chava and his pals are happy to play amidst the ruins of battle, sometimes turning even very dangerous situations into a game of hide and seek. In the film’s most visually striking scene, a group of soldiers search through the village for young ‘conscripts’ and the camera cranes up to reveal one, then two, then countless rooftops, each with a pair of boys hiding in plain sight.
Mandoki uses his considerable technical skill to capture the brutalities and injustices of a war that’s fought out in the midst of ordinary family life. Although acknowledging that both sides used children as combatants, this angry and heartfelt piece of mainstream political cinema takes aim at the US-supported government regime. A title at the end reminds us the that the U.S. spent $1 billion on a war that killed at least 75,000 Salvadorans and sent a million others into exile.—Peter Walsh.

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