Mexican docu helmer Everardo Gonzalez turns his critical eye southward to El Salvador and the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Mexican docu helmer Everardo Gonzalez turns his critical eye southward to El Salvador and the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in “The Open Sky.” Though Romero’s story has been told before in docus and features (“Romero,” “Salvador”), Gonzalez paints an absorbing portrait of the prelate’s exceptional heroism, using a large number of talking heads, edited together with a wealth of chilling images. Trimming some repetitiveness would deliver more punch, but overall this is a solid, moving treatment of a major late-20th century figure, and should see fest play followed by docu channel rotation.

Romero’s legacy figures prominently in the opening section, especially among peasants who lived a kind of indentured servitude. Then in the 1970s, left-leaning clergy began discussing justice as well as prayer, and liberation theology took root: Oddly, Gonzalez avoids mentioning the Vatican’s decision to quash the movement. Romero had a reputation as a conservative until the assassination of Father Rutilio Grande turned him into a gadfly of the regime, who made no bones about wanting him dead. Disturbing footage and audio include Romero’s assassination during mass, and while visuals vary depending on original format, all are watchable.

The Open Sky

Mexico

Production

An Artegios, Cienegadocs, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia production, in collaboration with Beca Gucci Ambulante, Camara Carnal Films, Estudios Churubsco Azteca. (International sales: Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia, Mexico City.) Produced by Martha Orozco, Everardo Gonzalez. Executive producer, Francisco Vargas. Directed by Everardo Gonzalez.

Crew

Camera (color, DV, HD, 16mm-to-35mm), Gonzalez; editor, Juan Manuel Figueroa; music, Radaid. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 14, 2011. Running time: 103 MIN.

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