Alsino y el Condor
ALSINO Y EL CONDOR
(Alsino and the Condor)
Director: Miguel Littin
Production: Nicaraguan Film Institute, Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, Latin American Production of Mexico, Costa Rican Cinematographic Co-Operative; colour, 35mm; running time: 89 minutes. Filmed on location in Nicaragua.
Producers: Lilia Alfaro, Jose Ramon Perez; executive producer: Herman Littin; screenplay: Miguel Littin, Isadora Aguirre, Tomas Turrent; photography: Jorge Herrera, Pablo Martinez; editor: Miriam Talavera; sound: Germinal Hernandez; art director: Elly Menz; music: Leo Brower.
Cast: Alan Esquivel (Alsino); Dean Stockwell (Frank); Carmen Bunster (Mama Buela); Alejandro Parodi (Garin); Delia Casanova (Rosario); Marta Lorena Perez (Lucia); Reinaldo Miravalles (Don Nazario); Marcelo Gaete (Lucia's Grandfather).
Awards: 1st Nicaraguan Fiction Feature.
Littin, Miguel, and others, Alsino y el Condor, Nicaragua, 1982.
Variety (New York), 9 February 1983.
Valdes, Zoe, "Alsino: Las Alas del Sueno" in Cine Cubano (Havana), number 106, 1983.
Canby, Vincent, New York Times, 1 May 1983.
Fernandez, Enrique, Village Voice (New York), 10 May 1983.
Denby, David, New Yorker, 16 May 1983.
Perez, Marta, Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), December 1983.
Positif (Paris), April 1984.
Bassan, Raphael, "Alsino et le Condor—Une Allegorie pour un Pays Neuf" in Image et Son (Paris), May 1984.
Jaros, J., Film A Doba (Prague), May 1984.
Dunnage, G., "Nicaragua: L'enfant qui voulait voler" in JeuneCinema (Paris), June 1984.
* * *
Miguel Littin, Chilean director in exile and former head of Chile Films, flirted with magic Realism, a style increasingly popular in fiction and following on from this, cinema, in the 1970s, with El Recurso del Metodo, and then returned to the Chileans-in-exile theme of direct criticism and allegories of the political events in Chile with Alsino y el Condor. Nearly all those involved in Chile Films during Allende's brief tenure in office in the country were thrown out of Chile after Pinochet's takeover of power in 1973 (some after a period of imprisonment), and despite money difficulties, some managed to keep up a form of film production. Those who did so were mostly in Socialist regimes—the Soviet Union or Cuba—but because of his contacts in the Mexican film business, Miguel Littin was able to continue his career there. This mass exodus of filmmakers from Chile who actually managed to continue filmmaking, and provide an alternative point of view to the very small number of films produced under Pinochet at this time, lead to the peculiar situation of almost an entire country's film output being made in exile.
Alsino y el Condor made at the time of the Sandanista overthrow of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, is an allegory of the Nicaraguan people rising up to meet their oppressor. The film is a Mexican-Cuban-Nicaraguan co-production, yet despite this, it has the distinctive Littin touch. Littin's shortest film to this point was criticized by some for its too blatant use of political allegory.
The hero of the film is 10-year-old Alsino, a dreamer. He lives with his mamabuela, an old lady shrouded in the mystery of her past, who bewitches Alsino with travel tales of her dead sailor-husband and shows him old postcards from Amsterdam.
There is a contrast between Alsino's dreams and the realities of his country as it heads towards revolution. Alsino likes to climb trees and to imagine himself flying. His dreams are ignited by the US Army helicopter that begins to hover over his head. Alsino wants to fly. The fact that the helicopter is fighting the very people who want to liberate his own people is lost on him. Alsino's dreams are the dreams of his people, although as he is a child he cannot realize this and it is only after he falls from the tree and becomes hunchbacked that he becomes conscious of reality. After meeting the guerilla he returns home to find his town abandoned and his mamabuela dead, the Dutch postcards burnt and scattered to the wind, like his dreams. Alsino becomes one of the guerillas himself. Finally understanding the war and foreign aggression he can fly on the wings of his dreams of freedom.
The very obvious allegories here are the illusion of liberty through flying, and real dictatorial oppression and North American aggression expressed by the helicopter. Cultural domination is expressed by Alsino's wanting to possess the foreign object, the helicopter—even though it represents aggression. The film is full of symbols—in fact it could be said that there is not one real character in the film, merely symbols and emblems. There are birds unable to fly because their wings have been clipped, and Alsino becomes hunchbacked because he falls from a tree and only then begins to see things in a different light.
This film was respected in the West and even nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film, although its obvious and heavy-handed political allegory was too much for the North American critics. Cine Cubano, however, loved it, and praised it for the beauty of using the innocent eyes of childhood awakening to political consciousness as the medium for the message. One could say, however, that Littin's vision has never been so schematized before and presents a very simplified vision of a country's problems.
—Sara Corben de Romero