Director: Luis Mandoki
Cast: Carlos Padilla
I watched the movie at Sonoma Valley Film Festival 2005
This movie was Mexicos official submission for the Oscar.
The official website is here:
It is based on the true life story of screenwriter Oscar Torres! It is about the civil war in El Salvador in the 80s which caused about 75,000 deaths, 8000 disappearances, and nearly 1 million exiles. The US government helped equip and train the Salvadoran army and provided over 1 billion dollars in aid.
Hence, I am not sure if Americans, the people of Salvador, and the audience will see a different movie and feel differently about the movie.
As the movie depicts the war from an eleven-year-old boy's perspective, critics and audience should be more forgiving for any bias stand against the army, and more in favor of the guerillas. However, there are some scenes where the director tries to balance off that depiction:
(i) the mother remarked that the gunshots could have been from the army or guerillas, it does not matter who the shots are from, innocents are killed.
(ii) the guerillas also put the children at risk when they sought refuge in schools, etc.
(iii) recruiting children was not only commited by the army, but also by the guerillas.
In essence, the director is not trying to depict both sides of the story, but from an eleven-year-old boy's perspective.
What I like?
-- It has a good mix of fun and laughter (as children try to live their normal day life of what children typically do) as well as shock and tears (as children try to survive their "normal" day life of what civil war is about).
-- It is a simple story without trying to be too cryptic or too philosophical about rights and wrongs of any political agenda. More essentially, it is NOT just a story about El Salvador, but about many other similar wars that try to recruit children (e.g., Colombia, etc). Presently, there are MANY children who are serving the army around the world!
-- There are lots of daily details (or younger days details) that the audience would reminisce about ... being parents ... being children ... etc
Overall, I think it is an excellent movie!
At the end of the movie, there were some audiences from Salvador who felt very impacted by the movie.
Q&A with Oscar Torres:
Q: Are the cast professional actors? And are they Mexican?
A: The cast are primarily Mexican except for the mother (a Chilean). Noteworthy, the main protagonist, Chava (Carlos Padilla Lenero), is not a professional actor.
Q: Why the movie ...?
A: Initially, he only wanted to write something about the banned political folk song, but the director wanted him to tell his story ... He was hesistant but he finally did ... When he wanted to use the nickname about his sister and the jokes about her, his sister thought for a few days before consenting with a condition: He had to change her name ... hiaks hiaks
Q: Where did he meet up with his dad, etc?
A: In LA. He also studied in America. His mother, sister and 1 brother attended the screening! Apparently, he has 2 younger brothers. The movie simplify it to 1.
Q: Did he manage to find out what happened to his girlfriend?
* possible spoilers *
A: She did survive the civil war. She is now married with a kid.
* end of spoilers *
Q: Why did the army or guerilla recruit children of 12?
A: There were no adult male left. Initially, the age would be 15. As the years go by, it became 12. And even 8 or 9.
Q: Distribution issues ...
A: It is doing well worldwide (by Lions Gate and ...) except in America, where they are still trying to convince Sony Classics and/or New Market. The screenwriter jokingly/seriously appealed to the audience to help write to these companies to help distribute in America.
Hmmm ... any takers from this forum ...?
Q: What do you think about America's role in this civil war?
A: He informed that a lot of audience has asked, "Do you hate America?" He did not answer directly. He only highlighted that the information at the end of the movie is rather factual. He also tried to explain why Americans became involved, when the issues became portrayed as communism and the fight for freedom.
That's all that I can recall.
Once again, an excellent movie!