"Nobody just disappears in El Salvador.”
News of the civil war in El Salvador certainly was prevalent in the early 80s when Oliver Stone returned to the director’s chair. For his return, he joined forces with photojournalist Richard Boyle to tell Boyle’s own stories of his time in El Salvador during the US’s transition from Carter to Reagan and how US aid to the military junta running the country was fueling the death squads and atrocities. The political angle seemed ripe for Stone and the types of stories he wanted to tell, but it also seemed to be an early example of his stories focusing more on the policies than the people. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Oliver Stone in the 80s series with Stone’s 1986 film Salvador.
We talk about the politics of El Salvador to get a sense of the dictatorship at the time and why the US was providing ‘aid,’ and how that gave Stone the angle he wanted for his film. We debate the idea of having Boyle as our protagonist, as portrayed by James Woods, because he’s such a despicable character from start to finish. We talk about the idea of photojournalists and the angle they take when looking for the perfect photo and why that idea seems to get lost for such a time in the film. We look at the other actors and talk about what they’re bringing to the table. And we discuss the technical angles and why those elements work.
It’s a frustrating film that doesn’t give us what we want in a film about a Central American dictatorship and the atrocities committed, but does at least provide a window for curious Americans to start their own explorations. We have a great time talking about it on the show this week so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!
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