Finding Oscar

Guatemala in the 1980s was a frightening place, as this film about a village massacre attests.

Steven Spielberg has executive producer credit on two films this year, and while both will make you despair for humanity, only one ends with a glimmer of hope: Ryan Suffern’s documentary Finding Oscar. (The other wrist-slitter is the new Transformers picture. ’Nuff said.) Acting on a rumor that the village of Dos Erres was housing rifles for leftist guerrillas, a unit of the Guatemalan army massacred all but two of the more than 250 residents in December 1982, throwing the bodies into the town well — usually, but not always, after they’d died. The two survivors were male children whom the soldiers raised as their own. They’d also initially spared three young girls, but decided to rape and kill them the next day. (Boys will be boys!)

Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt denied the many atrocities under his reign, and two days before the massacre, Cheerleader-in-Chief Ronald Reagan said Montt got a “bum rap” from human-rights organizations. Forensic investigators’ search for the titled survivors as proof that the massacre happened provides a lifeline for what would otherwise be a story of unrelenting human horror, as is often the result when men with guns act without personal consequence under the aegis of nationalism. “Happy” may not be the word for Finding Oscar’s ending, but “tearful” certainly is.

Finding Oscar
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.

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