Filmmaker Marcela Zamora has made a career out of giving a voice to victims of human rights abuses in her native El Salvador, but after 10 years documenting her country’s traumatic past and difficult present, Zamora needed a ray of light. “I was ending up just like this country, with no hope,” she told elsalvador.com, so she set out looking for a story that could speak to to some positive aspect of a society besieged by violence and mired in pessimism.
The result is Comandos, a profile of the volunteer EMT workers who brave precarious conditions, limited resources, and ever-present danger to provide life-saving rescue services. Much like the population they serve, these everyday heroes are of humble origins, yet they work chaotic 24-hour shifts for little more than the satisfaction of knowing they saved a life that day.
The trailer shows how Zamora follows these workers through their daily comings and goings, tending to often innocent victims of gang violence and turf wars as they reflect on the importance of their work. The camera captures all of this with a kinetic urgency that still finds almost hypnotic beauty to the images; while the simple, repetitive piano score, held up by a rumbling low frequency, invites us into a meditative trance.
With these unexpected stylistic choices, it’s almost as if Zamora were refusing to sensationalize the work of these selfless individuals, asking us instead to take a moment of solemn reflection on their silent heroism in the face of a seemingly unending cycle of death and violence.
Comandos is currently playing in theaters in El Salvador.