Picks and Pans Review: Real to Reel

updated 11/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

A CHILD WARRIOR TELLS HIS STORY

At 12, Oscar Torres joined guerillas fighting in the 1980s El Salvadoran civil war and barely escaped with his life. Now 34 and an actor and screenwriter in L.A., he based the new drama Innocent Voices on his war-torn childhood.

IN 1983 TORRES AND THREE FRIENDS JOINED REBELS RATHER THAN BE FORCED INTO THE RIGHT-WING GOVERNMENT'S ARMY.

We were turning 12. That's the age when the army could take boys—make a child into a soldier. We didn't want to become soldiers like our friends, who had turned into little monsters carrying guns and shooting people. We felt we needed to do something to protect our families, so we joined. But really, what can a child do?

TORRES HAD A CHANCE TO SHOOT AN ENEMY SOLDIER. HE DIDN'T.

When I saw him and I had a gun in my hand, I couldn't kill him. My mother taught us no matter what to have compassion. I couldn't shoot him, so I ran.

TORRES WAS CAPTURED BY ARMY TROOPS, WHO SHOT TWO OF HIS YOUNG FRIENDS IN THE HEAD AND WERE ABOUT TO EXECUTE TORRES WHEN HE WAS RESCUED BY FELLOW REBELS.

I was not afraid of dying at that moment. I felt guilt for making my family sad if I died. I felt guilt because I helped my mom make a living by selling the dresses she sewed. Who would help her now? She would be so sad if I died.

IN 1985 HIS MOTHER SENT OSCAR TO LIVE WITH HIS FATHER IN THE U.S.; SHE AND HIS SIBLINGS FOLLOWED LATER.

She sold her sewing machine—her livelihood—and arranged for a visa for me. All I thought about those years without them is whether they would be safe.

TORRES SAYS HE WROTE INNOCENT VOICES TO SHOW THAT HIS EXPERIENCE ISN'T UNIQUE.

Children are being used as soldiers all over the world. This is a story that every human can relate to. It touches us and calls us to work for peace so that our children will not have to fight.

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