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Innocent Voices

The experiences of Oscar Torres, the writer of Innocent Voices, offer a salutary lesson about how even an obscene situation can appear normal to people denied a glimpse of a different reality. Torres based the film on his childhood during the civil war in El Salvador. Then, it was normal to have to cower underneath a bed as bullets burst through his house during fire fights between FMLN guerrillas and government soldiers; normal to see bodies in the street; normal to have to rush home in time for curfew; normal for boys to be rounded up for military service when they turned 12.

For Torres, this was just the way life was and he accepted it. "You don't realise that it is not normal because you're not exposed to anything else," he says. Only later, when he worked on the film with the Mexican director Luis Mandoki, did he realise that conscripting children was a crime. It twisted them out of shape, he recalls. If they lived long enough to visit their families, they returned hardened and brutalised. "They were so evil at times," Torres says. "I saw a kid shoot another kid just because he looked at him a certain way, because he had the gun."

Seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Chava, the war is not dissected politically, no attempt is made to understand its causes. The war is the reason Chava's father escapes to America, leaving his son the "man of the house", and why the things most kids take for granted - friendships, playtime, first love - are repeatedly cut short. Torres was lucky enough to evade conscription, but he remembers the fear. "It was ever present. You're playing, you have fun with your friends, but there is always that little thing in the back of your mind that time's running out."

Innocent Voices is released August 11

Read the full article in The Scotsman