Screenwriter & Producer Oscar Torres Visits Dra. Leticia McGrath’s “Studies in Hispanic Film” Course
Students in Dra. Leticia McGrath’s Spring 2022 SPAN 5332 course titled “Studies in Hispanic Film” recently had the exciting opportunity to meet Hollywood screenwriter and producer Oscar Torres to discuss his film Voces inocentes (Innocent Voices), which is set in El Salvador in 1986 during some of the most violent episodes of the Salvadoran Civil War. The film presents the war from the perspective of Chava, an eleven-year-old boy who knows that once he turns twelve, he will be forced to join the military to fight against his own people. Chava’s story is based upon Oscar Torres’ own childhood, having grown up in El Salvador. In his visit to Dra. McGrath’s class, Mr. Torres graciously shared his very personal struggles with guilt, shame, and post traumatic stress that eventually led him to document his painful experience as a child during the Salvadoran Civil War.
During his visit to Dra. McGrath’s class, Mr. Torres learned about each student’s career plans and tailored his answers to their individual questions in such a personal way as to guide them in their academic journey to become more proficient in the Spanish language and better informed of the culture and history of the many regions where Spanish is spoken, with a special emphasis on El Salvador and Central America. Students learned about the process of writing the screenplay and how Mr. Torres contributed to the production of Voces inocentes, including the many challenges the director and actors faced as they brought his screenplay to life. He explained that this process allowed him to reach the understanding that one doesn’t have to have lived through war to be at war, saying, “we are all at war with our own daily struggles, and it is how we choose to confront and resolve these issues that will provide us a method to recover, to heal.”
While Mr. Torres’ experience writing and adapting his own intimate memories for this film is unique and very personal, Voces inocentes and its powerful message continue to have a profound impact on contemporary audiences. His history represents the harsh reality that many people are still suffering, not only the thousands of Central Americans who survived the violent conflicts from decades ago, but also the many “innocent voices” of Ukraine and other countries where children are being forced to witness the horrific consequences of war.