Four small boys are marched through pouring rain, hands held submissively on their heads, surrounded on all sides by soldiers armed with machine guns, as if they are guarding dangerous criminals. In voiceover, a young boy tells us in a voice tight with fear: "I'm cold. My feet hurt.....Why do they want to kill us, if we haven't done anything?"
Innocent Voices tells the story of young Chava (Carlos Padilla, in an astonishing feature film debut), an 11-year-old boy living in a time and a place when 12-year-olds boys are "recruited" at gunpoint to serve in the El Salvadoran army, to fight against the rebel peasants. Chava's father abandons his family to go to America, and Chava is left as the man of the house, to look after his mother Kella (the multilingual and multitalented Leonar Varela) and his younger siblings. The family is poor, but so are all their neighbors, and no one really seems to notice the abject poverty of their surroundings - the huts made of cardboard and corrugated tin, the constantly leaking roofs, the endless rain and mud.