Thursday, August 21, 2008

movie aches

Why watching Voces Inocentes gave me a headache:

First of all, I am not overly fond of movies. I would rather read the book than watch the movie version. A movie forces me to sit down for two hours straight while a book I can pick up and put down anytime, to return to at a later hour that I choose. And besides most movies are not that faithful to the original written text, as a lot of compromises, improvisations and revisions are made for the sake of cinematic effects. Not to say that movies are of a lesser artform than books, only not my preference.

And so with this attitude I sat down to watch the movie, squirming somewhat and tossing and trashing a lot while doing so.

The second reason for the headache is that I don’t like movies involving gunshots. And this movie had a lot. Much too many, in fact. I could not understand how soldiers, government or guerilla, could rain bullets on households and grade schools repeatedly, night or day, knowing full well there are children there. Or how the school administration and local authorities could allow these civilians to continually live in what was obviously a war zone. Or how could the mother not take away the children after the first episode that their “cardboard house” was riddled with bullets? Perhaps they were in a state of denial, wishful thinking, oh this would go away in a couple of days and everything will be normal again.

And most of all, the reason the movie gave me a headache is that I don’t have the stomach for movies showing violence to children. The contents of my stomach sort of went to places it shouldn’t have, like to my throat, ears, head. I think this was the reason for much of the squirming and tossing and trashing. I actually missed a lot of footages of the movie because every time there were gunshots or something terrible was about to happen I would cover my eyes and ears with a pillow and wait for an appropriate time before coming up for air. One hour and forty minutes into the two hour movie, I was almost frantic, when is this going to end? I couldn’t see any respite or resolution coming. It was all violence and senseless brutality all throughout.

I forgot at which part I cried. Was it towards the end or was it after? Or was it at the middle? It is kind of blurry and I don’t really want to remember exactly when or what made me cry. Maybe it was when the little boys, only between 9 and 12, were stripped of their innocence and play because of the beastliness of so called adults. Maybe it was when these little boys were marching in the rain and mud with both hands clasped behind their necks and pissing in their pants from sheer terror. Maybe it’s because I have a 14 year old son who is into drums and pingpong and gelled hair at the moment, as all pre-teens should be. Not forced recruitment into the army, not learning how to shoot other people and certainly not to look at a barrel down one’s face.

Watching the movie gave me a headache. And a heartache as well. Because the movie was not totally fiction. It was based on the true story of Oscar Orlando Torres, the playwright and co-producer of the film. Torres and his playmates had embattled childhoods during the 1980’s civil war in El Salvador, a country in Central America. It was the first time I learned that grade school children have actually been recruited as soldiers in many countries all over the world, including, to my utter dismay but not complete surprise, the Philippines.

In case you're wondering why I subjected myself to the torture of watching that movie, it was a class requirement. I wouldn't have watched said movie otherwise. Nor would I recommend it to anyone. Too depressing. I thought movie watching was for fun and relaxation. This movie was quite disturbing, like you see something unpleasant and you want to turn away and pretend it's not there.

I was also wondering about the harmony of writing such a somber post here, in the midst of all reunion revelry I've been posting a lot about. But I rather like the contrast. How boring it would be if all my posts were fun and cheery. And I learned something in class today: the writer always has some degree of melancholy. So there.

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