Narrated through the central character, 11-year-old "Chava," the film illustrates the day-to-day life of his poor community besieged by the war between the corrupt national government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a group of peasant rebels. As the story brilliantly displays the many dimensions of daily life for these residents, the film refuses to give in to a dominating theme of agony. One moment, Chava is celebrating with his friends at a birthday party, the next moment his family is running from a gunfire ambush. Another day may involve Chava attending class while one of his young classmates is being trained to kill women in front of their children. That is daily life for them: Normality entangled with overwhelming atrocities. The film forces the viewer to understand the endurance of a peoples commitment to continue on with their lives, their education and celebrations amidst the worst of human horrors intent on shattering their spirits.
Based on the personal memoirs of screenwriter Oscar Torres, the film builds faithfully upon his recollections as a firsthand witness. Despite the storytellings rich personal insight, every scene echoes the very public political images that became so closely associated with the identity of El Salvadors civil war in the media. Those scenes include images of American troops, who are now known to have trained the "death squads" under the Reagan administration; child soldiers; and politicized priests (Archbishop Oscar Romero being the most famous).
Innocent Voices is certainly unforgiving in its depiction of the impact of a brutal war. Just as it commands attention to the plight of its victims, it also commands attention to their conviction for survival through the powerful lens of a film camera and a young boys eyes.