Colombia's never-ending military/guerrilla struggle is the background of "Conflict."

Colombia’s never-ending military/guerrilla struggle is the background of vet Lisandro Duque Naranjo’s “The Actors in the Conflict,” a flawed but engagingly spiky satire abo three thesps dragged deeply into politics. Craftily negotiating a tightrope between tub-thumping earnestness and trivialization, pic deftly strikes its targets via a well-built plot, a winsomely hapless central trio and a script that provides an unusually balanced view of how the armed struggle shapes Colombia day-to-day. Film deserves exposure at politically themed fests, but its tight focus will restrict interest beyond Spanish-speaking territories.

Though originally written 10 years ago, the film still strikes the right contempo note. Alvaro (Mario Duarte), Tamar (Venezuelan thesp Coraima Torres) and Santiago (Vicente Luna) are mime artists anxious to leave Colombia for Spain. Their potential benefactor, businessman Norberto (Nicolas Montero), is called away on business, leaving the trio in charge of some boxes. Norberto is arrested, and upon opening the boxes, the gang discovers high-grade weaponry — almost impossible to get rid of without suffering the consequences.

Alvaro comes up with the idea of pretending to be guerrillas and handing over the weapons in exchange for free and safe passage to Spain. They head off to a conflict hotspot in the hills, and Alvaro sets the process in motion by confessing to a priest who will act as go-between. But their presence in the village arouses suspicion, and Alvaro is kidnapped by the guerrillas and taken to a mountain compound, where the reality of the conflict hits him with new force.

Pic’s title says it all in terms of theme. This is an item about people — whether priests, politicos or police — acting out the roles they have assigned themselves without any consideration of the consequences.

As the winsome, scruffy Alvaro, Duarte carries most of the dramatic burden and does so well, though his transformation to quasi-hero is a little too hasty. Torres offers good comic counterpoint to Alvaro’s hare-brained schemes, but Luna’s Santiago seems surplus to requirements.

Despite a couple of setpieces, the script avoids sensationalism; helmer Duque Naranjo is content to quietly follow the logic of his yarn. Neither military nor rebels are idealized or demonized. Dialogue is sometimes leaden, but the only concession to cliche is Alvaro’s clumsily handled relationship with guerrilla Elisa (Arianna Cabezas).

Music, whether outmoded funk or heavy orchestral, is mostly overused.

The Actors in the Conflict

Colombia-Venezuela

Production

A Cine Colombia (in Colombia) release of an EGM Producciones, Hangar Films (Colombia)/Ma Non Troppo (Venezuela) production. (International sales: Proimagenes Colombia, Bogota.) Produced by Efrain Gamba, Anais Dominguez. Directed, written by Lisandro Duque Naranjo.

Crew

Camera (color), Raul Perez Ureta; editor, Anais Dominguez, Javier Chitiva; music, Alejandro Ramirez; art director, Jorge Cortes; sound (Dolby Digital), Ramiro Fierro. Reviewed at La Chimenea de Villaverde Film Festival, Madrid, June 25, 2009. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Mario Duarte, Coraima Torres, Vicente Luna, Arianna Cabezas, Nicolas Montero.
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