Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
The assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, in 1980, provoked at the time the usual international reaction of shock and protest, which is to say, it was ignored by most people and quickly forgotten by many of the rest.
Such atrocities have become routine in many of the nations of Central and South America, and although it is comforting to dismiss them as the anarchic behavior of corrupt and bloodthirsty Latinos, there is often the hint of the unholy hand of the CIA somewhere in the shadows. America, land of the free, has an uncanny habit of picking the wrong side in Latin America.
Romero was shot to death while celebrating mass. He was, at the time, not only the spiritual leader of El Salvador's Catholics but one of the most outspoken critics of the government - a government portrayed in this film as little more than a holding company for the economic exploiters of the country. But Romero was not always a critic, and the movie follows his career from the day when he is selected as archbishop because he is considered a "safe" and "moderate" man who will not rock the boat.
The radicalization of Romero is shown in terms of his responses to a series of personal experiences. He counsels trust, but then he sees deception. He would like to consider the government honest, but he is lied to. He sees the evidence of murder and repression, and he cannot ignore it any longer. His conscience eventually requires him to speak out against a government that is denying basic human freedoms to its citizens.