Grave Undertaking

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The recent footage includes shots of a shrine erected at El Mozote containing the bones of many who were killed. The shrine is crowned by a metal cutout of a family and ringed by flowers, lovingly tended by a boy who had fled to Honduras right before the massacre but has returned to the village.

"Filming a documentary like this involves a lot of issues you have to be careful of," Price notes. "We didn't want to be intrusive. This is a very delicate situation; we didn't want to ask people to stand in a certain place. We didn't want to manipulate -- we wanted to be respectful.

"We discovered if we set up the camera, "they would come,' like in Field of Dreams. People would come out of the jungle like little wood elves. When we would tell them we were making a film about El Mozote and what happened there, they wanted to help because that was a symbol for them.

"Ultimately," says Price, "the story really is about tragedy, but it's even more about strength of character and the beauty of these people coming back and facing what they have to face."

The 30-minute version of Pasa Un Angel "is a good, competent film," says film critic Emmanuel Levy. "Its greatest asset is that it features a very graceful personality who talks like a poet. We have an interesting story where we really cannot clearly distinguish between her work as an artist and her work as a political activist -- she combines the two.

"Levy, the senior film critic for Variety, is a two-time past president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and a professor of film and sociology at ASU West.

Winning a major award at the San Francisco festival, Levy notes, is a prestigious accomplishment. "But it goes beyond that," he says. "The significance is artistic, sociological and even political. Politically, there is tribute to a very problematic and shameful incident in history."

The fact that Pasa Un Angel was directed by a faculty member from SCC and produced by a Tempe print publisher on the faculty at ASU bodes well in this critic's book.

Levy believes that the locally produced documentary portends an important step forward in the development of the Valley's slowly emerging independent-film community.

Although he's guardedly optimistic about prospects for a lively and active local film scene in the Valley, Levy is an enthusiastic, hands-on booster of independent film here. Two years ago, he launched the Scottsdale Independent Film Fest at Scottsdale Center for the Arts and plans to start the Scottsdale Film Society in conjunction with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which will sponsor an annual contest for the best Arizona-made feature beginning in 2001. It was Levy who presented the first Valley screening of Pasa Un Angel in Scottsdale.

As Levy points out, the Valley may well be the sixth most populous place in the nation, but "it's the only major metropolitan center that doesn't have a real international film festival. I think we're moving in the right direction, but we'll see," Levy says. "I have high hopes, but I have more realistic expectations. Film communities are not born, but created. The foundations are there."

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Kathleen Vanesian