attack the film so much as ignore it. There was what I call a “smothering blanket ofindifference“. Time. Life. People. US Today didn‘t even bother to review it. Some of the network people didn't even show up at the screenings.‘
Salvador will break even but might have fared slightly better in the market place had Stone been around to help promote the film. Instead. he was at work in the Philippines. filming Platoon which he summarises as ‘Moby Dick in the jungle.‘ Based on his own experiences in the 25th Infantry near the Cambodian border in 1967—68 the film is ‘very realistic. The enemy are shown as very competent, skilled jungle fighters. not like the Rambo figures who are just targets — these guys fight back. I think it‘s a fairly realistic assessment ofwhat happenedf
Stone has been hungry to direct Platoon since he wrote the script in 1976 but Hollywood considered it too ‘grim‘ and ‘depressing‘. It is only now. through the good offices of Hemdale. that he has been given the opportunity and he does find it ‘ironic that the greatest recent war in American history has to be financed
by the British.‘
Platoon has not met with a ‘smothering blanket ofindifference‘ and even Time made amends with a generous seven page feature on what it termed ‘Vietnam. the way it really was. on film.‘ Stone is hotter than ever and determined to make the most of it. There was a period ofsix or seven years once when he wrote twelve screenplays for films that were never made. It seems unlikely to recur and his future projects include a film about Pancho Villa. ‘I haven‘t really been working for a studio in four or five years. I‘ve really been lucky not to have to sit in another dull meeting. There‘s a lot of sickness in the executive suites. I made two films back to back that have cost a cumulative total of$ 1() million; that‘s at least the price of one film. I'm not looking for a lot of money. I‘d just like to make films. Nothing is as exciting as the movies because the sky is the limit. you can do anything you want to — it‘s up to your imagination. There‘s been a drought for me and whilst it‘s raining boy I want to make the most of it.‘ Salvador plays at the F i lmhoto'e. Edinburgh (8—21 Feb) andthe Glasgow Film Theatre (15—21 Feb).
El SALVADOR DISPATCH
‘WHILE JOURNALISTS COUNTED THE GADAVERS THE MURDERS WENT UNPUNISHED. . .’
The film Salvador is set in the early ’80‘s. Today some things have changed, but there is much that hasn‘t. The
List received this despatch from El Salvador this week from Edith Coron of the French newspaper Liberation.
'i ne blatlUtl wagon slowed to a stop in
the shadows between two street lamps. the rear door swung open. and a body dropped to the wet tarmac. The door shut. The car drove off. The rain went on falling on the abandoned form. soaked by the tropical downpour.
My friends. a Salvadorean couple who had witnessed the scene with me from their front room window. would not go out to help the man. or even drag him from the middle of the street. They were not indifferent. They were simply frightened.
During that night in June 1983. my second in El Salvador. my friends told me ofcorpses left outside town on the airport road. of the bodies halfeaten by vultures. of the notorious ‘El Playon‘ body dump. a harsh river ofvolcanic lava littered with human parts.
I discovered quickly that while people went looking in such places for their missing relatives. while journalists counted the cadavres. the murderers went unpunished. The right wing death squads that had been enjoying their hours ofsinister glory since 1980 were still prowling the night streets.
It was their ravages. and the US backed government‘s war against leftist guerrillas. that had drawn scores of reporters to San Salvador. There. they haunted the corridors of the Camino Real. a luxury hotel that became the international press headquarters.
A regular stop on those journalists‘ beat was the small room in the archbishop‘s office where Maria Julia Hernandez kept her records of the week‘s deaths. disappearanccs and kidnappings. From there we would troop to the weekly US embassy briefing. where we were assured that the tide had turned. that the guerrillas had lost the war. and that the seeds ofdemocracy had been sown.
Today. Maria Julia Hernandez. sees few visitors. The death squad have been tamed. and the journalists have moved on to other pastures. to other wars. such as the one next door in Nicaragua. Those who have stayed still drop by the US embassy. but now they go there to see the
political analysts more often than the military strategists.
Napoleon Duarte has been elected president. the Christian Democratic party is in power. and increasingly frequent demonstrations in the streets of San Salvador — recalling the mass protests of 197‘) — show that people have learnt at least to overcome their fear.
The wheel seems to have turned full circle in the past seven years. with no winners. and no losers. For the war goes on. far from the 'l'\" cameras. almost forgotten by the world.
It took an earthquake last October to bring the press back to El Salvador. The hundreds of reporters hanging around the (‘amino Real — in the garden this time. since the hotel itselfwas too badly damaged to work in — looked back wrny on the last time we had gathered in such numbers. It had been for the first ever talks between the government and the guerrillas. in October 1934. Peace. we had all believed at the time. was just around the corner. We were wrong. The talks came to nothing.
But the war that has been fought since then is not the same as the war the reporters once liked to cover. Gone are the days oforganised tours ofguerriIIa-held territory. when the journalist could go out in the morning and come back to his hotel that night having interviewed a rebel field commander and his army counterpart in the space of a few hours. Under pressure from the new tactics that the Salvadorean army has learnt from its American trainers. the guerrillas have given up many of their ‘controlled zones' and broken into smaller units that are harder for the press to find.
But they are still there. and there are no signs that they will go away. rooted as they are in discontent that millions ofdollars of American aid have not been able to dispel. 'l‘he guerrillas have dug in for the long haul. and the army is fighting what is called ‘low intensity warfare‘. 'I‘hat generates low intensity press coverage. and the bodies are now
counted by the year. not by the week. But the counting still goes on.
The List 6- 1‘) February 5