We all have dreams. So do landmine victims.
In his debut film “Pasos de Héroe,” Colombian director Henry Rincón shows the humanity of child war victims in a way not typically seen in cinema.
The film tells the story of Eduardo, a 10-year-old boy who lost his leg to a landmine, and his determination to form a soccer team and enter his town’s local tournament despite his disability and opposition from his school’s director, who does everything to prevent the boy’s team from stepping on the pitch.
Set against the backdrop the Colombian armed conflict, Eduardo, with the help of his music teacher, leads a group of his classmates to overcome an assortment of obstacles and discrimination to play their first game.
But it’s Eduardo’s resolve that takes center stage, not his disability.
Rincón delivers an apolitical message of the resilience of children. Although many of the children in the movie have disabilities caused or exacerbated by the armed conflict, they are shown to be just as capable as any other children.
But, perhaps, what above all makes Pasos de Héroe unique is the lens through which it views these physically disabled children. Instead of showing what these children cannot do, the movie focuses on what they can do—A child with no arms plays the guitar with his feet and a child with a prosthetic leg plays soccer. The message is clear: Despite what they have suffered, they can still contribute great things to society.
The film arrives in theaters at a historic moment in Colombia in which the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels have agreed to end a 50-year war that has left parts of the Andean nation riddled with mines and other explosive material.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry along with representatives from more than 20 countries pledged $80 million USD to support a U.S. and Norway-led demining initiative in Colombia that seeks to rid the country of landmines within the five year deadline of the peace accord reached with FARC in Havana, Cuba.
After Afghanistan, Colombia is thought to be the second most mined country in the world, according to the United Nations’ Mine Action Service.
Since 1990, landmines have wounded or killed more than 11,400 in Colombia—including 72 this year, according to official government figures. One in ten victims, like Eduardo, are children.
The departments of Antioquia, Meta and Caquetá have registered the most victims, but landmine incidents have occurred in 31 of the country’s 32 departments.
President Juan Manuel Santos told a demining forum in May that currently 700 people are working to locate and clear minefields. By next year Santos expects that number to jump to 10,000.
Pasos de Héroe is the first Colombian feature dealing with the physical disabilities of child landmine victims and opens in CineColombia theatres in Bogotá, September 22.