¨The only battle you lose is the one you abandon. These kinds of battles are battles that will last all your life.¨
Mi Corazon en Yambo is a 140 minute long Ecuadorian documentary about the disappearance of two young brothers in 1988. That seems like a very long time to sit through a documentary, but in reality Maria Fernanda Restrepo has directed a fascinating film that will have you at the edge of your seat dealing with all sorts of emotions as your blood boils from all the injustice this family has gone through. This is a very personal project for Restrepo as she is the sister of the young boys, and she has made this film so that we never forget the atrocities that happened during that period in which human rights were violated, not only in Ecuador but across the entire continent. Chile suffered this sort of persecution under Pinochet`s regimen, while Uruguay and Argentina had to deal with similar problems during their dictatorships. In order to ¨protect and serve¨ their country, these governments used torture and ignored human rights in order to control the revolts. In Ecuador many disappearances occurred during those years under Leon Febres Cordero`s presidency, but the case almost every Ecuadorian remembers is the Restrepo one. Why? Simply because the family never stopped fighting or searching for the truth. They were not going to stand still and let time heal the wounds until the truth was discovered. And that is why Maria Fernanda`s father hasn’t stopped protesting after all these twenty years have gone by and he still goes to the Plaza every Wednesday and protests. He tells his daughter that ¨you always know when the battle begins, but you never know when it is going to end.¨ Restrepo ends up not just paying homage to her family, but making an extraordinary film as well.
The film is directed, written, and narrated by Maria Fernanda Restrepo, who begins introducing us to each member of her family. We see the little footage she has of her two older brothers, whom a few months later would disappear and be gone from her life forever. This raw footage of their lives shows us how happy everything seemed to be going for the Restrepo`s, but one day this would change. Maria Fernanda was ten years old when her brothers were taken away from them, and so the memory she has of everything prior to that moment is very vague. She remembers celebrating with her father when Leon Febres Cordero was elected President and we see some footage of that historic moment. She remembers that specific moment because she would soon discover how that ¨grandiose¨ event would change their lives forever. The Restrepo`s had been living in Quito for several years, but they were from Colombia. During the rise of Cordero to power, the drug cartels were growing and threatening the nation. These cartels came from Colombia so the government decided to fight hard against this crime and saw every Colombian in the street as a possible threat. One day in 1988 the Restrepo parents` had to leave so they left their kids, Carlos and Nene, in the house. When they returned a few days later they never found their children again. The kids were on their way to bid a friend farewell at the airport, but they never got there. What happened to them remained a mystery to the family for several years. They heard so many versions, but finally the truth was revealed that the kids had been taken away as hostages by the police because they were driving without a license. Since they were Colombian, they automatically assumed they were in the drug business and tortured the poor kids to death. The bodies were never found and the government hid all the evidence.
Mi Corazon en Yambo means My Heart in Yambo, and the reason for this is because one of the police officers testified that the children were brought in for question and tortured to death. Their bodies were put in trash bags and launched into the Yambo Lake. However, the bodies have never been found and the truth has never been revealed. No one else has shared any more information on the case and the government has failed to provide an answer. Jesus said ¨The truth will set you free, ¨ but despite that we are very far from discovering the truth and until that moment the Restrepo`s will never experience that freedom. That is why they continue to fight despite so many years of struggle and resistance. Their motto is to never forget or stop fighting for the truth until someone opens up and shares it with them. They will not be silenced until the bodies are found. The root of the problem here has always been the truth (or the lack of it from everyone involved in the case). This is a very powerful and emotional movie with some of the greatest villains you will ever see on film. Some of the people that Restrepo interviews are so guilty you can see it in their face, but despite all this they remain silent and claim they`re innocent. I can`t think of worse villains than the people involved in the case, not just because of what they did, but because they continue to refuse coming clean and try to ignore the issue all together. There are two women who perhaps didn`t have anything to do with the murder of the kids, but are just so evil in the way they behave towards the family that they are just as guilty as the perpetrators. This is a very powerful documentary and one you won`t want to miss. One of the best of the year!