Life seems idyllic for Manuel (Ocampo), a nine-year-old kid living in the rural mountains of Colombia: He pals around with his friends, obsesses over playing soccer and, now that the local schoolhouse just got a new teacher, is learning how to read. His village happens to be a headquarters for a group of rebels taking on the country's military power, however, and these guerrillas aren't very happy that Manuel's farmer dad (Mndez) has refused to join up. Worse, a runaway pig steps on a land mine in the boys' soccer field and blows up; suddenly, those friendly games of ftbol are permanently called on account of deadly weaponry. This doesn't sit well with Manuel, especially since his prize ball is marooned in the middle of the booby-trapped area. So naturally, he and his friends plan a dangerous rescue mission.
File Carlos Csar Arbelez's feature-film debut under Warfare as Seen Through the Eyes of Children; filtering political conflicts through the prism of innocence lost is a cinematic tradition (see Forbidden Games, Germany Year Zero, etc.), though the film ham-fistedly hammers home its message more than the usual collateral-damage drama. Still, despite the lapses into clich via a disillusioned schoolteacher and domestic squabbling, the director knows when to let his images do the talking. Sometimes, a shot of a bloodied corpse on a donkey or an exploding hog says everything there is to say about the horror, the horror.
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