From Joshua Bennett and Juliana Schatz-Preston comes the short documentary film, Los Comandos. I suppose timing is everything. As this is being written, there’s a caravan from migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador making its way to Southern U.S. Border and inflaming the political debate. El Salvador is not the only country in desperate need of heroes. Not heroes who stand at a podium and lecture the rest of us, but heroes who willingly place their lives on the line for the sake of their fellow citizen.
Los Comandos takes us into the center of the unrest in El Salvador. A country overrun by violence from gangs and the military, where average citizens are caught in the middle of the chaos. Los Comandos is a team of brave volunteers ranging from older children to mature adults, who essentially act as their districts medical first responders. Basically, they’re paramedics. They arrive on the scene and care of any wounded regardless of what “side” they’re on. The job is to save lives.
Los Comandos is comprised mostly of young teens as the older kids and young adults are recruited into gangs. The film focuses primarily on sixteen-year-old Mimi and follows her from the start of the day as she dons her bright yellow uniform and rides in the ambulance. Her heroism comes in three ways. First, is that drive to save lives. Because maybe saving a life is a step closer to ending her country’s violence. Second, is service to her country. Not everyone wants to leave, even though her family, friends, and everyone else would go if they could. Lastly, she is putting her life on the line. The people she helps are victims of violence from guns, knives, and gangs. Just because Los Comandos arrives to help, that doesn’t mean the violence stops and the danger ends.
“…a team of brave volunteers ranging from older children to mature adults, who essentially act as their districts medical first responders.”
Midway through the film’s narrative, everything takes an abrupt turn when 14-year-old Erick, one of theirs, is gunned down because he refused to join the local gang. Now, the gang members are after his family. His death is taken hard by everyone. The government is forced to shut down that district’s Los Comandos, and the teen volunteers are forced to go home and wait. Anxiety rises because sitting around doing nothing is just as dangerous as actively helping those in the line of fire.
So, there’s this caravan approaching the southern border. Watch the cable news networks and what is disgusting is how they take a humanitarian crisis and instantly make it political. Yeah, both sides. We talk about these migrants and then immediately follow up with the “that’s why you should vote for fill-in-the-blank.” Los Comandos sheds light on the situation in El Salvador providing on-the-ground coverage of the dire situation, its citizens face. In turn, we understand why they want to leave.
Los Comandos works because it informs and inspires. It is a little depressing to watch, says this very comfortable Westerner. While we pat ourselves on the back extolling our own personal bravery at the voting box, it shows us that there is still hope emanating from young millennials caught in a literal cross-fire and sacrificing themselves for the scant hope of a better life.
Los Comandos (2018) Directed by Joshua Bennett, Juliana Schatz-Preston. Los Comandos won Best Short at the 2018 Los Angeles Cinefest and Austin Film Festival.
8 out of 10 stars