Carla's Song (1996)



Director:  Ken Loach

Starring:  Robert Carlyle (George Lennox), Oyanka Cabezas (Carla), Scott Glenn (Bradley), Salvador Espinoza (Rafael), Louise Goodall (Maureen), Richard Loza (Antonio), Gary Lewis (Sammy), Subash Singh Pall (Victor), Stewart Preston (McGurk), Margaret McAdam (George's Mother), Pamela Turner (Eileen), Greg Friel (Keyboard Player), Anne Marie Timoney (Warden), Andy Townsley (Taxi Driver), Alicia Devine (Hospital Sister)


1978, CIA war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.


I am probably going to spoil this movie for you, so don't read the review.  But on the other hand, it will spare you a bout of anger against the movie if you do. 

Well, this would have been a good movie, except for the ending.  My wife and I hated the ending and I felt betrayed by whoever wrote and/or approved the crappy thing. 

Here is poor Carla (Oyanka Cabezas) who has come to Glasgow, Scotland all the way from Nicaragua and its horrors during the fight to overthrow the Somoza government and the CIA sponsored and trained Contras.  The poor Sandanista girl from a very poor family suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the brutal treatment of her Sandanista boyfriend at the hands of the Contras.  She also suffers from depression, we can only assume from the guilt she should feel after having left Nicaragua after the terrible event without finding out what was the ultimate fate of her boyfriend.

But, anyway, now she is in Glasgow earning money from street performances as a dancer.  It is said that she wanted to raise money for the Nicaraguan cause.  (But then, why choose Glasgow  -- hardly the richest city in Europe.  And where would she have gotten the money to buy the ticket to go to Glasgow?  And how could she think that the little money she would earn as a street performer could help the Nicaraguan cause? It's all quite illogical.)

Now Glasgow bus driver George (Robert Carlyle) is a great guy -- spunky, rebellious and kind.  He takes a liking to this Nicaraguan girl who he sticks up for while she is being harangued by a bus inspector for not having a bus ticket while riding the bus.  Now, George doesn't know it, but he is going to have his work cut out for him with this very mentally damaged young woman.  And she is no help, because she will tell him nothing.  He only learns that something terrible has happened by listening to her screaming during her nightmares. 

George finally is able to find out that it is her former boyfriend, Antonio, who she is obsessing about in her nightmares.  So, being the regular guy he is, he buys two tickets for Nicaragua, saying that the only way to rid her of her demons is to head back to her home country and find Antonio.  Now that makes a lot of sense.  Let's take a young mentally ill woman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder back into a war zone.  Now doesn't that sound like a good idea?  No, not really.  (And George can't really plead ignorance about Nicaragua because his sister told him the place was a bloody mess.)

So back into the maelstrom Carla goes with George tagging along.  She introduces George to an important man from her past, an American, Bradley (Scott Glenn) working for peace, who the director makes look like an ass-hole because he seems to be picking on George without any logical justification.  (It actually only makes sense later.  Yes, a war zone is a terrible place to bring a woman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and George does deserve a kick in the ass.)

I am going to try to not spoil the ending.  But I have to say that we was robbed.  Only a woman who is suffering from PTSD and depression from extreme guilt feelings could make the decision she made.  Or maybe the writer/director had political motives beyond the logic inherent in the facts of the story. 

And I write this while agreeing with the analysis presented in the movie.  I hate US policy in the third world just as much as the next decent person, and probably more.  Yes, the US does not care about countries like Nicaragua, unless they try to overcome the great class and racial divides in their society; for this threatens US business interests.  The US primarily cares about the interests of its companies who make a lot of money in the third world and who, in turn, donate a great amount of money to Republican party candidates for office.  It's a vicious cycle.  And when the US gets concerned, people start dying.  The US killed between 2-3 million Vietnamese during the Vietnam War (holocaust-like numbers), but have they ever apologized for this savaging of a people to stop the great supposed threat of communism?  Hell, no, and probably never will.  (They said in those days that we were fighting in Vietnam because we did not want to fight the communists in California.  As if!  But Vietnam has not proven to be any real problem for the US following the American defeat in that country.)  

Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

1524  --  Conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded two of Nicaragua's principal towns: Granada and Leon. 

1520s  --  settled as a colony of Spain within the kingdom of Guatemala.

Nicaragua became part of the Mexican Empire.

1655-1850  --  the Mosquito Coast based on Bluefields on the Atlantic claimed by Great Britain as a protectorate.

1821  --  Nicaragua gained its independence as a part of the United Provinces of Central America.

1838  --  Nicaragua became an independent republic.

Independent Nicaragua's early politics were characterized by the rivalry between the liberal élite of León and the conservative élite of Granada, which sometimes spilled into civil war.

1850  --  end of the British protectorate over the Mosquito Coast.

1855  --  the Liberals asked U.S. adventurer William Walker to join their struggle against the conservatives.  Walker was a bit crazy and obsessed.  He wanted to conquer Nicaragua and did so for awhile.

1856  --  Walker named himself president.  (He was later executed in Honduras.)

1857  --  Walker driven out of Nicaragua. 

three decades  --  of rule by the conservatives.

1893  --  liberal José Santos Zelaya came to power.

1894  --  Zelaya ended the longstanding dispute with Britain over the Atlantic Coast.  He reincorporated the then autonomous Mosquito Coast into Nicaragua.

SOMOZA DYNASTY (1937-1979)

1937-1947 – Anastasio Somoza García, president of Nicaragua.

1939-1945  --  World War II. 

1950-1956 – Anastasio Somoza García, president of Nicaragua.

1956-1963 – Luis Somoza Debayle (eldest son of Anastasio), president of Nicaragua.

1963   --  Daniel Ortega attended the University of Central America, Managua.  There he joined the then-underground FSLN (liberation front)

1963-1966  --  René Schick Gutiérrez, president of Nicaragua. 

1967-1972 – Anastasio Somoza Debayle (second eldest son of Anastasio).  As head of the National Guard, he was virtual dictator of the country from 1967 to 1979.

By 1967   --  Daniel Ortega became a leader in the FSLN, in charge of the urban guerrilla campaign.  Then he was arrested. He remained in prison until 1974. 

1972-1974  --  Liberal-Conservative Junta.

1974  --  Ortega was released in exchange for hostages held by the FSLN. He visited Cuba, a major source of aid for the Sandinistas.  He came back and again became a guerrilla commander.

1974-1979 – Anastasio Somoza Debayle (second eldest son of Anastasio).


1979 (July)  --  Somoza overthrown by the FSLN.  Anastasio Somoza Debayle was the last member of the Somoza family to be President, ending a dynasty that had held power since 1936.

1979-1985  --  Junta of National Reconstruction.  Daniel Ortega became a member of the five-person Junta.  Other members were Sandinista militant Moisés Hassan, novelist Sergio Ramírez Mercado, businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and journalist Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.  The FSLN came to dominate the junta.  When Robelo and Chamorro resigned, Ortega became the de facto ruler of the country.

1984 (November)  --  Ortega won the presidency with 63% of the vote. At the request of the  US, some opposition parties boycotted the election.  Many international observers thought the election fair, but, of course, the Reagan administration immediately denounced the election as a "sham".

1985-1990  --  Daniel Ortega Saavedra, president.  During his reign, the anti-Sandinista guerrilla movements, collectively known as the Contras, and a United States’ trade embargo greatly hurt Ortega’s popularity. (Reagan said he would never sells arms for hostages in reference to getting back the US hostages in Iran. But, Marine Ollie North started an arms for hostages deal in which he sold arms to the Iranians for the hostages in return for money that he gave to the Contras.)


1990 elections  --  Ortega lost to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, his former colleague in the Junta. Chamorro was supported by a 14-party anti-Sandinista alliance known as the National Opposition Union (Union Nacional Opositora, UNO).

1990-1997  --  Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

1997-2002  --  Arnoldo Alemán

2002  --  Enrique BolaZos.



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