Magazine article New Internationalist

[Men with Guns]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[Men with Guns]

Article excerpt

directed by John Sayles

From The Anarchist's Convention to Lone Star, John Sayles has adroitly played the themes of contemporary allegory. His new film, set somewhere in the Americas, south of Texas, continues in that vein.

Men with Guns could take place in Chiapas, Mexico, or perhaps in Guatemala. Maybe it's even further south -- any place where the armies and rightist death squads target Indian communities and those doctors and social workers who work 'in the field'. But Sayles is careful to show that his story is not specific to one time or place. 'I didn't want people to say that could only happen in El Salvador ... or Mexico,' he says.

Doctor Fuentes is a wealthy, distinguished professional, proud of his achievements in the Alliance For Progress. Many years earlier he had inspired young medical students to fan out into the jungle in order to practise within Native communities. Then one day he stumbles across one of his former students, now selling drugs in Los Perdidos, a slum near the city dump, and Fuentes begins his descent from ivory tower ignorance into the bitter and tragic world beyond the capital city.

The story of a well-off liberal, confronted by the nasty realities of civil war is hardly new. And the way in which the film unfolds as Dr Fuentes searches for his students in the jungle carries an air of inevitable fate. Yet Sayles' use of allegory and stylization turns the familiar plot into a political statement. The doctor's search centres on one remaining secret Indian village -- is it Shangri-la or the sad remnants of a few fleeing refugees? …

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