"Innocent Voices" gives hope in face of tragedy

Oct. 17, 2005, midnight | By Justin Vlasits | 18 years, 4 months ago

Realistic depiction of Salvadoran Civil War inspires

Chava is a little boy growing up in a world of machine guns and hand grenades. He lives in a leaky house made of corrugated iron and watches his friends being recruited into the army or joining the peasant guerrilla group Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN). Chava is fast approaching his 12th birthday, the age at which boys are forcibly recruited to the army, and his life hangs in the balance between his family and the army of his country, El Salvador.

The film's screenwriter, Oscar Orlando Torres, and director, Luis Mandoki, use "Innocent Voices" to create an image, not only of what El Salvador was like in the 1980s, but also of what it could become. Torres's story is one of great hope, and its telling is inspirational in its humanity.

"Innocent Voices" is based on the true story of Torres, who lived in El Salvador during the peak of its civil war in the mid 1980s. Chava (Carlos Padilla) is the typical 11-year-old schoolboy, passing through all of the tribulations of childhood, such as liking girls, staying out past his curfew and disobeying his mother. But as Chava's 12th birthday nears, he faces the choice of either joining his Uncle Beto (José Maria Yazpik) fighting with the guerrilla resistance or their opponents, the Salvadoran army.
The film does not use special effects or cliché plot devices to appeal to the audience's emotions but instead uses solid, realistic acting on the part of all of the characters. Padilla and his classmates were able to depict the loss of innocence through their use of hardened accents and the nonchalant way they dealt with danger. They were supported by an outstanding cast of the villagers who face the same day-to-day danger as they do.

Yazpik is exemplary as a revolutionary guerrilla who has devoted his life to the FMLN. His gruff, heavily accented voice is a window into his harsh existence and persuades Chava to fight alongside him. Yazpik introduces Chava to the ideas of the FMLN through revolutionary songs such as "Cardboard Houses" and the banned radio stations of the resistance.

"Cardboard Houses" is key to the film in that it shows the totalitarian state in which Chava lived, both through its revolutionary and inspiring lyrics and the reactions other people have to the song. The music from the banned radio station stirs Chava's heart, like countless other Salvadorans', in a nation that had nothing left to hope for.

The use of music augments a touching screenplay by Torres and Mandoki. Torres is able to dramatize his own story as a child in El Salvador, torn between his country and his family.

"Innocent Voices" leaves the audience wondering how peace will ever be reached in El Salvador, but also with a faith that people can resolve it.

"Innocent Voices" (120 minutes, at Landmark E Street Cinema and Bethesda Row Cinemas, in Spanish with English subtitles) is rated R for disturbing violence and some language.

Justin Vlasits. Justin Vlasits is a CAP senior who enjoys It's Academic, baseball, guitar and frisbee in addition to watching weird movies and contemplating the meaning of life. Justin is also a revolutionary member of SGR and will someday overthrow oppressive capitalism all over the world. More »

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