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Venevision International presents

Paloma de papel (2003)

"My mother died sick with sadness, the comrades said my dad was a reactionary imperialist, and you know that's bad. That's why now I fight for my motherland and my comrades that need us, so we won't be like the USA where everybody's bad."- (Jesús Carbajal)

Stars: Antonio Callirgos
Other Stars: Eduardo Cesti, Aristóteles Picho, Liliana Trujillo, Sergio Galliani, Melania Urbina, Tatiana Astengo, Jesús Carbajal, Angel Rojas, Anaís Padilla, Sandro Calderon
Director: Fabrizio Aguilar

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:28m:15s
Release Date: 2005-03-01
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AC-C+ D-


DVD Review

In the 1980s, Peru experienced a bloody uprising by communist guerillas who sought to overthrow the country's corrupted democracy. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that those rebels accurately labeled the Peruvian government as corrupt, but the youthful leftist's tendency to hero worship these rebels is a frightening thought. Paloma de papel gives a chillingly sober portrait of the madness of the terrorism brought down upon the citizens of that country.

The story is amazingly simple—so simple that I suspect I could follow it with remarkable ease even if there were no subtitles. The mayor of a small Peruvian village is hung outside the church as the rebels, called Teruccos, begin to paint messages on the city walls. The mayor's son, Pacho (Angel Rojas), discovers after this atrocity that the stepfather of his best friend, Juan (Antonio Callirgos), is one of the rebels. Juan searches through his family's meek dwellings and discovers incriminating evidence that will expose the guerillas. Unfortunately, his stepfather returns home earlier than expected and has Juan kidnapped by the terrorists.

The beginning of the film is an interesting experience because so much of it is done visually, without any dialogue (or, at least, the dialogue is secondary). It is an interesting view into the life of a child, which makes the subsequent events in the movie all the more devastating. Once Juan is kidnapped, the communists take him to a remote location where he will be brainwashed into adhering to the Marxist line. Under the lead of Comrade Wilmer (Sergio Galliani), the guerillas train Juan and other young children how to build bombs, fire guns, and use knifes—all while constantly hammering home the sickle. The images of the Peruvian landscape—filled with mystical mountains and vast arrays of open field—are a stunning contrast to the events happening around little Juan. One of the most disheartening scenes in is when Juan meets another boy about his age, Modesto (Jesùs Carbajal), who has been so ingrained with the propaganda surrounding him that he actually is glad the comrades killed his father.

There are other instances in Paloma de papel that show the horror of communist terrorists and the decision by director Fabrizio Aguilar to cast beautiful people as the guerillas is a stroke of genius. Communism is an attractive ideal even though most attempts to create a communist state have yielded negative results, so the inspired casting choices reflect how impressionable children can be fooled into believing there will actually be a world without envy and corruption, while they are led down a road into depravity and injustice. Aguilar's approach to the material breathes a lot of life into it, with some impressive tracking shots and extremely good performances from the children (especially Antonio Callirgos, who perfectly captures the timid and rebellious nature of Juan). Additionally, the music by Irene Vivenco evokes an atmosphere that creates the somber tone of the film.

The movie ends with a major battle scene, reminiscent in some ways of The Wild Bunch, but the heart of the story isn't in the death toll. Rather, it's in the effect that these guerillas have on the very people they claim to represent. In some ways, the themes and style are quite similar to John Malkovich's The Dancer Upstairs (also about Peru's struggle against the communists), but where that film focuses on the law enforcement's attempts to solve the problem, Paloma de papel wants us to see the devastating effect extremist ideology has on a people.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is a mixed bag. The contrast is good and the beautiful landscapes still have the "wow" effect, but there's a considerable number of print defects and scratches, too. Some scenes appear to have a kind of video interference between cuts, though it goes by so fast that it's tough to tell exactly what it is. There's also a shot when Juan is first taken to the communist camp that is apparently missing a subtitle, with a caption saying "Subtitle Overlay" and a blue box around the image. However, detail is sufficient and the beauty of the cinematography appears to be pretty much intact despite those distracting flaws.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Stereo mix is pretty lifeless, with no sound separation that I noticed. The mix occupies the front soundstage with no hiss or crackles and the sound effects are well balanced with the dialogue. It's nothing to get excited about, but it's not bad either.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only supplemental material on the disc is a collection filmographies of director Fabrizio Aguilar and stars Cesti, Aristóteles Picho, Liliana Trujillo, and Sergio Galliani. As for the subtitles, they can be accessed either through the menu or your remote. They are easy to read and I noticed only one spelling error.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

Paloma de papel is a striking beautiful film that never flinches at its subject's weight. The image transfer is somewhat disappointing and the Dolby Stereo mix is just average. The extras are meager, but with a film this good it doesn't really matter.

Nate Meyers 2005-03-01