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Enemies of War (1999)
This documentary was made on the 10th anniversary of the killing of the Jesuit priests at the Monsignor Romero Pastoral Center of the Central American University. Footage of the aftermath of the murders contains images of the murdered bodies laid out on the grass and interviews of Salvadorans' reactions in English. Much of the documentary follows the story of an American priest who volunteered to go down to El Salvador to replace the Jesuits. Also a main focus of the documentary is the story of House Representative Joe Moakley from Massachusetts, who had been a strictly domestic politician until he was chosen to head the House Committee in charge of investigating the murders. His story reveals the reluctance of the State Department to reveal what it knew about the murders and their links to the U.S. supported regime. Enemies of War details the source of these murders, including that of Liberation Theology leader Father Ellacuria, whose murder had been in the works since the early 1970s. Due to the pursuits of Moakley and others, the murderers were among the first to face trial and conviction of war crimes in El Salvador.
Salvador (1986)
This Hollywood work of historical fiction tells the story of an American reporter who goes down to El Salvador to report on the civil war. James Woods plays the lead role of Richard Boyle, whose viewpoint moves to the left as the film progresses. Salvador, an Oliver Stone Salvador through American eyes and in doing so deals more with the role of the U.S. in the Central American situation than does Romero. The dialogue between Boyle and various American military officers provides a clear delineation of the views held by the U.S. government, which was afraid of communism, versus the views of the left, which felt that U.S. military intervention was helping to destroy the country (comment by Mehnaz Choudhury). One glaring historical inaccuracy was the depiction of the assassination of Romero, which did not occur as it appears in the film. Salvador received favorable reviews, contains graphic scenes of murder, rape, and mass burial, and it hits on an array of issues concerning the clergy and U.S. involvement in military intervention (comment by Mehnaz Choudhury).
Salvador: Into the Valley of Death by Charles Kiselyak
The DVD edition of Salvador contains an interesting resource, a documentary by Charles Kiselyak, called Into the Valley of Death. It contains a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, including interviews with the films' stars. What is particularly noteworthy are the interviews with director Oliver Stone and Ambassador Robert E. White, who was ambassador to El Salvador from 1979-1981 and is named Ambassador Kelly in the film. The documentary begins by reminding us that it does not want to be known as the story of El Salvador only, but that greed and resultant violence affects all peoples. Although a trite way in which to excuse the melding of individual national memories into collective ones, the documentary does provide some more documentary footage of the attacks on the peasants by the right-wing army. The commentary by Ambassador White is particularly important in adding to the understanding of U.S. involvement in El Salvador and other areas of Central America to further their own interests. According to the documentary, Ambassador White refused to submit a report confirming that the El Salvadorian government was investigating the murder of the four American nuns, since he knew the government was possibly responsible for the murders. White was fired and forced to retire from his distinguished career in Foreign Service.

See Also

El Norte (1983)

Missing (1982)

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Under Fire (1983)