Alsino and the Condor (1983)


The Plot and Such: Alsino (Alan Esquivel) is a young adolescent boy who lives with his grandmother in Nicaragua. He is first exposed to drink and sex in the context of the Contra War raging around him. He connects with a U.S. advisor (Dean Stockwell) who takes him on a chopper ride. Seeing the brutal realities of the fighting, Alsino joins the rebels.

Alsino and the Condor got me thinking of a documentary about U.S. Army boot camp that I watched in a sociology class in high school. The psychological warping of military service knows no national boundaries.

Alsino and the Condor isĀ uneven but affecting. It’s heavy on symbolism and the absurdities of war, and that the film itself isĀ rather messy and confused at times mirrors that content. In one remarkable shot, the upturned faces of newly-massacred civilians rise just above the surface of a shimmering river. That shot could have been gorgeous, but Nicaragua in the early 80s was a rough place, and this is not a particularly attractive film; as is, the shot caught my attention. Reynaldo Miravalles gives a good performance as Don Nazario. The subtitles on the version I saw were sketchy in parts, and the score is distracting. Still, despite its many shortcomings, I’m glad I watched it.

Side note: This is the film Dean Stockwell ended up doing in place of Dennis Hopper, who had flipped out and had to go into rehab. Hopper told the story different ways, but it always involved him believing World War III had begun, walking naked into the jungle, ending up in Mexican jails, and going out on the wing of an airplane.

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