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Ballad of the Little Soldiers

West Germany, 1984 (MIFF 1985)

Director: Werner Herzog

This documentary was shot in the spring of 1984, on the border between Nicaragua and Honduras. Herzog does the voice-over himself. The film is set in a village on the north-east Atlantic coast which Herzog says he reached by travelling with an underground army while they carried out raids into Nicaragua.

Herzog states that there was an out and out campaign two years ago to relocate the Mosquito Indians, and then goes into a lengthy interview with the inhabitants of the village. Only later do we find that this village is in fact on the Honduras border. The people from the village were moved to a refugee camp and later this also was attacked by the Sandinistas, but then we find that this camp is actually in Honduras. The people themselves tell the story, incredible though it may seem. The film then goes to a "contra" training camp, where half of the troops being trained are children. It turns out that the people who train them are former National Guards from the Somoza regime. There is then footage of children shooting live ammunition; they have real guns to play with. There are some very nice shots of cute smiles and very nice children as; they play with these real guns.

Ultimately, watching this film, you feel sad about the lives of these children, and the way that they have been brought up. The instructors. openly comment that it is good to have the children at ages nine to eleven years so they can be easily trained, easily brainwashed. Herzog comments over the top of what the instructor is saying and says the camp is in Honduras, not in Nicaragua as the instructor says.

So Herzog does seem to take a little bit of an outside or overall view to this matter, but nonetheless is incredibly supportive of the actions of these Mosquito Indians. The French co-director, who is a journalist, was also in the film. At the end he says he was in Berlin when aged 14 at the end of the war, and seeing these children being trained to kill at these young ages - he says "I see them practically dead".

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