Voces inocentes

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Voces Inocentes
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Directed by Luis Mandoki
Produced by Lawrence Bender
Written by Luis Mandoki
Óscar Orlando Torres
Starring Carlos Padilla
Leonor Varela
Xuna Primus
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) 16 September 2004 (2004-09-16) (Toronto Film Festival)
Running time 123 minutes
Country Mexico, United States, Puerto Rico
Language Spanish

Voces Inocentes (English title: Innocent Voices) is a 2004 Mexican film directed by Luis Mandoki. The plot is set during the Salvadoran Civil War in 1980, and is based on writer Óscar Torres's childhood. The film serves as a general commentary on the military use of children. The movie also shows injustice against innocent people who are forced to fight in the war. It follows the story of the narrator, a boy named Chava.

Main cast

  • Carlos Padilla – Chava
  • Leonor Varela – Kella
  • Xuna Primus – Cristina Maria
  • Gustavo Muñoz – Ancha
  • Ofelia Medina – Mama Toya
  • Daniel Giménez Cacho – Priest
  • Paulina Gaitán – Angelita


Chava is 11 years old and the oldest son of Kella. His father left El Salvador when the war started, for the United States. His family lives in a town that is currently heavily fought over between the Salvadoran army and guerrillas. His mother makes a living for the family by sewing, and Chava sells the clothes in shops. When he's not in school, Chava helps out by announcing stations for a bus driver.

He is nearing his twelfth birthday, when the military will recruit him. Chava witnesses the army recruiting twelve-year old children from his school. One day his uncle Beto, who has joined the guerrillas, comes to visit Chava's family. Beto wants to take Chava with him so the military can't recruit him, but Kella is against it. Beto gives a radio to Chava and tells him how to listen to the guerrillas' banned radio station, Venceremos. Throughout the scenes in the village where they live, there are firefights between government and rebel forces, as the settlement is on the border of the conflict. Chava knowingly plays a song banned by the Salvadoran Army in front of the soldiers, but the town's priest saves him by playing the same song over the church's loudspeaker, focussing the soldier's attention away from Chava. Chava falls in love with a girl in his class named Cristina Maria. The guerrillas attack the army from the school building and the school is closed. Kella and her family move out of town to her mother's house in a safer area. One of the guerrillas, Raton, tells Chava of the army's next recruitment day, and Chava and his friends warn the entire city to hide their children. Chava decides to visit Cristina Maria but only finds the bombed-out shell of her house. He and his friends decide to join the guerrillas, but they are followed and the guerrilla camp is attacked by the army.

Chava and his friends are taken from the camp, and forcibly marched to an unknown destination, repeating the opening scene. It appears to be an execution ground on a riverbank, where other bodies litter the scene. Ancha, the mentally-handicapped local from Chava's village is seen to have been hanged. The soldiers begin to shoot the boys one by one, and two of them are killed, with Chava is next in turn, but at the last moment he is saved by a guerilla attack. He runs back into the undergrowth right into a raging firefight. After seeing a guerilla get killed by a government soldier, Chava feels he should fight against them. He picks up the rifle, but realizes the government soldier is another young boy who he knew in school. He cannot bring himself to kill his old friend, another human. He flees, and the camera shows the boy he was aiming at, who realises that his life was in another child's hands. Chava runs home to find his mother in the burnt out ruins of their house. She decides to send him to the United States to prevent him being caught by the authorities, and he promises to return and rescue his brother before he too turns twelve.

In the epilogue, it is revealed that Chava returns to El Salvador and his family six years after the events of the film.


One of the biggest critiques of the film was the characters not speaking in Salvadoran accents or Caliche. The people of El Salvador, for the most part speak in voseo, which was non-existent in the film.


  • Three Ariel Awards in 2005 for Best special effects, make-up and supporting actress
  • A Crystal Heart Award[1] as well as the Audience Choice Award for Dramatic Feature[2] at the 2005 Heartland Film Festival.
  • Golden Space Needle award at the Seattle International Film Festival (2005)
  • Stanley Kramer Award of the Producers Guild of America


  1. (2005). Films. URL accessed on 2006-02-08.
  2. (2005). Heartland Film Festival Concludes Another Record Breaking Year. URL accessed on 2006-02-08.

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