Beautiful mayhem: "Innocent Voices"

The film Voces Inocentes is a gorgeous fable being mis-marketed as a political statement. It's promoters claim it is a denunciation of the forcible recruitment of children in wars, but what it really is is a child's view of flames and violence, filmed in the beautiful colors of El Salvador's picturesque poverty during the war of the 1980s. The memories are those of director Oscar Torres, and they are probably true memories. The movie is a fable not because it deliberately tells untruths, but as a literary form: innocent children beset by monsters who seek to destroy them, but our hero foils the much more powerful monsters by his cleverness and ultimately is saved by a guardian spirit. The monsters are the U.S.-trained Salvadoran army, the guardian spirit who shows up NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON is his Uncle Beto, a selfless leader of the guerrillas in the FMLN. There are moments of very effective acting -- the brutish bus driver, the anguished priest, the resourceful grandmother, the virtuous Beto -- and some spectacular scenes of firefights and of fires. But as a political statement, it comes 20 years too late and is far less effective than Oliver Stone's 1985 Salvador.

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