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Mandoki’s ‘Voices’ finally heard

'Innocent' screened after much debate

MEXICO CITY– The best Mexican film of 2004 is finally bowing here today, a month into 2005.

“Voces inocentes” (Innocent Voices), which was Mexico’s Oscar foreign-language film entry but failed to make the final five, will open on 300 screens.

Pic, which concerns the forced conscription of children in El Salvador’s violent civil war, qualified for Oscar contention by bowing in the Central American country on Dec. 16.

Since then, it’s raised $230,000 at the Salvadoran box office, drawing 88,500 spectators, more than “Troy” or “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Pic marked a return home for Mexican helmer Luis Mandoki, who hadn’t made a Spanish-language pic in 20 years.

“Voces” opens against “The Aviator,” which is being heavily marketed here by Warner Bros.

Nonetheless, Mandoki has reason to feel confident. The helmer behind “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Message in a Bottle” has seen his latest pic garner critical acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival as well as the AFI, and it will be featured at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

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Last week “Voces” split the Producers Guild of America’s Stanley Kramer award with “Hotel Rwanda.”

Still, it was a notably disappointed Mandoki who faced the press after Tuesday’s news that “Voces” wouldn’t be among the five finalists for an Oscar in the foreign category. “It’s a powerful movie that doesn’t need a nomination to get where it has to go,” Mandoki said.

The next day, the helmer stirred up controversy by disputing the government’s classification of the pic as B-15, which means that minors under 15 years of age can only enter with an adult.

“I think it’s a crime that they gave it this rating since what this film awakens in children are human values, antiviolence and compassion for other human beings,” Mandoki wrote in a letter addressed to the Mexican public calling for a reclassification.

The tactic is unlikely to work. Fox Latin America failed to get “The Passion of the Christ” reclassified last year after Mexico slapped it with the equivalent of an NC-17 rating.