‘Innocent Voices’ movie: El Salvador civil war horror through the eyes of one of its young victims
The power of writer-director Luis Mandoki’s Mexican drama Innocent Voices / Voces inocentes lies in its unsparing depiction of the lives of children, women, and men during El Salvador’s bloody civil war in the 1980s. From a narrative standpoint, however, Mandoki relies a little too much on melodramatic close-ups and cute pre-teen shenanigans that detract from his film’s harrowing core.
Based on the life of co-screenwriter (and Los Angeles-based actor) Óscar Torres, Innocent Voices tells the story of a young boy, Chava (Carlos Padilla), who must decide between the lesser of two monstrous evils: the local leftist guerrillas and the U.S.-sponsored right-wing army.
As Mandoki and Torres make clear, it’s a no-win situation – not only for Chava, but for just about everybody else in El Salvador.
El Salvador’s civil war raged from 1980 to 1992 – during the governments of U.S. Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. The Democratic administration of their predecessor, Jimmy Carter, had also helped to finance the bloodthirsty Salvadoran military.
Approximately 75,000 people died during that conflict, while hundreds of thousands fled to other countries, chiefly the United States.
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry
Mexico’s submission for the 2005 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, Innocent Voices failed to be shortlisted by the Academy. Mandoki’s film did, however, receive ten nominations for the Mexican Academy’s Ariel Awards, winning three statuettes, including a Best Supporting Actress Ariel for Ofelia Medina.*
Besides, it received the National Board of Review’s Freedom of Expression Award.
Innocent Voices / Voces inocentes (2004).
Dir.: Luis Mandoki.
Scr.: Luis Mandoki and Óscar Torres. Inspired by Torres’ real-life experiences.
Cast: Carlos Padilla. Leonor Varela. Ofelia Medina. Gustavo Muñoz. Daniel Giménez Cacho. José María Yazpik. Jesús Ochoa.
Mexican accents, Quentin Tarantino producer
* The principals in Innocent Voices are mostly Mexican, which has led to complaints that their accents are all wrong.
Innocent Voices movie photo: Lionsgate.
Innocent Voices cast information via the IMDb.