Innocent Voices


Features, Film, Review | by — August 9, 2006


by Marko Domazet

As human beings, we have a vague sense of direction and desire to improve ourselves, but the vast majority of our time is a grey zone – the time we spend doing everyday things whilst trying to figure out the confusing world around us. Film as a medium is rarely able to portray these grey zones, and those that do deserve special attention.

Set in 1980’s El Salvador, Innocent Voices tells the story of 11 year old Chava, a young boy who is coming to terms with growing up in a country tormented by war. Chava and his immediate family are living in a rural community stripped of all normality. All the men (except the village idiot and a local priest) have been drafted into the military and everyone knows it is only a matter of time before the next batch of suitable cannon fodder (any boys who turn 12) are called up.

In the absence of his father, Chava is trying to take on the role of the man of the house, at the same time struggling with natural boyish innocence and curiosity. He goes to school, looks after his siblings and works so that his family will have enough money to survive. Pretty soon, things take a turn for the worse and Chava finds himself not only fighting for his survival, but also fighting to restore a way of living that will allow him to be a boy again.

Straightforward war films are not a rare sight, but war films that display the anguish and battling emotions brought on by conflict are. Innocent Voices manages to portray the complexity of a situation by focusing on the individual and builds such a strong sense of empathy that the audience becomes engaged to the point where all objective judgement in suspended. We can only feel.

The acting in this film is superb; impressive since the film is carried by a 11 year old actor. The intensity of Carlos Lenero’s performance was astounding. The screenplay was well put together and the story itself was flawless, albeit a few cheesy one-liners juxtaposed with a slow motion segment of boys being escorted by soldiers in the rain that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Still, these are minimal flaws and Innocent Voices deserves far more international attention than it has been getting.

Leave a Reply