The Tiniest Place
Joy and sorrow: These are the first words uttered in Huezo’s film, and the emotional key notes in one of the most moving documentaries of recent times. On the surface The Tiniest Place is the story of Cinquera, a village literally wiped off the official map during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. But on a deeper level it is a story about the ability to rise, to rebuild and reinvent oneself after a tragedy.
Holding the past and present in focus together, the film takes us to the tiny village nestled in the mountains amidst the humid Salvadoran jungle, while villagers, survivors of the war’s massacres, recount their journey home at war’s end. When they first returned their village no longer existed. Nevertheless they decided to stay. And over the years as they worked the land, built new homes and started new families, the people of Cinquera learned to live with sorrow.
The Tiniest Place juxtaposes scenes of contemporary village life, of Cinquera’s remarkable renaissance, with stories of the war - how conflict arose, civil war erupted, and hopes for liberation turned to struggles for survival. "Don’t cry when they kill me" a mother recalls her 14-year old daughter telling her before running away to fight with the rebel army.
And though the village’s history is always visible - in an elaborate memorial for the dead, or the persistent tremor of a survivor’s hand, towards the end of The Tiniest Place we too are returned to the present. . We see that, if Cinquera is reemerging, it is through the strength and deep love of its inhabitants.
I was born in El Salvador, my father is Salvadorean and he and all his family lived through the civil war (1979-1992), I did not. One year before the war broke out, I moved to Mexico with my mother, I was four years old. My mother is Mexican and I grew up in Mexico.
I always travelled back to El Salvador. A few years ago I visited my paternal grandmother in San Salvador and she took me to the town were she was born, Cinquera. It took us three hours to get there on dirt roads. That same evening we arrrived I went out for a walk, alone. Suddenly an eldery woman hugged me, “Rina!” she shouted “you came back! You haven’t changed a bit!”. I didn’t know how to react, I told her it was a mistake, that I wasn’t Rina. The woman didn’t believe me. I’m not Rina, but I could have been.
Later, I stepped into the small town church, the walls were filled with bullet holes, there were only a few wooden benches, a military helicopter tail hung on a wall. There were very few religious images on the walls but there were rows of portraits of young people that died in the war.
The images and sensations of this space touched me deeply. I felt a need to know everything that happened here. These first moments in my grandmother’s town motivated me to make this film.
"A profound expression of the twin powers of life and death…The subject of the Central American wars of recent decades has rarely received such a level of artistic treatment onscreen." Robert Koehler, Variety
"Unforgettable…One of the finest docs I’ve seen over the past year." Howard Feinstein, Filmmaker Magazine
"Superb. 10/10." —Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters