Based on the true story of screenwriter Oscar Torres’s embattled childhood, Luis Mandoki’s Innocent Voices is the poignant tale of Chava (Carlos Padilla), an eleven-year-old boy who suddenly becomes the “man of the house” after his father abandons the family in the middle of a civil war.
In El Salvador in the 1980s, the government’s armed forces are already recruiting twelve year olds, rousting them out of their classes at the local middle school. If he is lucky, Chava has just one year of innocence left, one year before he, too, will be conscripted to fight the government’s battle against the peasant rebels of the FMLN. Chava’s life becomes a game of survival, not only from the bullets of the escalating war, but also from the dispiriting effects of daily violence. As he hustles to find work to help his single mother pay the bills, and experiences the pangs of first love for a beautiful classmate, Chava’s tiny home village becomes both playground and battlefield.
Armed only with the love of his mother (Leonor Varela) and a small radio that broadcasts a forbidden anthem of love and peace, and faced with the impossible choice of joining either the army or the rebels, Chava finds the courage to keep his heart open, and his spirit alive, in his race against time