|Manuel (Hernán Mauricio Ocampo) in The Colors of the Mountain.|
By John Esther
Deep in the mountains of the U.S. client state, Columbia, a young boy named Manuel (Hernán Mauricio Ocampo) just wants to go to school and play soccer with his friends. Thanks to the poor conditions and civil unrest of the community this is harder than it appears. Teachers never stay long, paramilitaries and guerrillas swarm the area and Manuel's family is somewhat poor.
Shortly after receiving a brand new soccer ball and soccer goalie gloves for his ninth birthday (putting "the drunken ball" to rest), Manuel loses the ball in a guerrilla minefield rigged for paramilitary helicopters. Although prohibited from retrieving the ball, Manuel and his buddies devise numerous schemes to get the ball back.
Meanwhile the armed people of the community tug at its citizens for allegiance to the illegal rightist paramilitaries or the leftist guerrillas cause when most of the simple farmers just want to be left alone. But indifference is not an option in a country riddled with human rights abuses.
As the civil conflict intensifies in the area and people increasingly disappear, Manuel and his friends try to cope with the unraveling of their community through friendship and futbol, but there is no real escape from the horrors.
An endearing feature debut by writer-director Carlos César Arbeláez which is, fortunately nowhere as heartwarming as the SFIFF 2011 program states, The Colors of the Mountain (Los colores de la montaña) is the kind of honest, direct film that illustrates the worth of film festivals. Well acted, too.