July 9, 2018  (Web Review)

Finding Oscar

(2016) 95 min. DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95. FilmRise (avail. from most distributors).

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

With the blessing of the Reagan administration, Guatemala became a military dictatorship beginning in the early 1980s, with raids by soldiers on villages—in search of anti-government guerillas—leading to human rights abuses. As viewers learn in filmmaker Ryan Suffern’s harrowing but also hopeful documentary Finding Oscar, one particularly monstrous assault was on an isolated community called Dos Erres, which harbored no enemies of the state. Nevertheless, soldiers began an organized spree of raping and murdering, throwing villagers—many alive—down a well. The only survivors were a couple of young boys taken and raised by soldiers’ families. One of those kids, Oscar Ramirez, grew up believing that he belonged to the family that raised him. The film follows the efforts of investigators trying to locate Ramirez to see if he will cooperate with an effort to link his DNA with that of his real family—whose remains were among hundreds at the bottom of that well. While the Dos Erres atrocity is nauseating, the film itself has the energy of a suspenseful thriller, with several determined women intent on confronting surviving soldiers and hoping that Ramirez can accept the truth about his life. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)