Bob Gliner, Documentary filmmaker

May 22, 2001



In her crisp white blouse with a Peter Pan collar, the young girl who loves to learn says she can't wait to go back to school with its books and computers.

But she'll have to wait -- until her school is unearthed from the rubble of El Salvador's back-to-back earthquakes earlier this year.

"I lost what I love most: my mother,'' the girl says in Spanish, looking into the camera which pans the background of broken buildings. ''Wherever she is, I want her to be proud of me.'' A female voice-over translates in English: ''She was the only parent we had. . . . We are three little sisters.'' The student is one of many Salvadorans featured in ''El Salvador -- Crisis and Challenge,'' a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Bob Gliner. The film premieres at 7 tonight at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz.

The evening, which includes Salvadoran food and a post-screening discussion, is a benefit to help the victims and to fund the rebuilding efforts in El Salvador. The film makes its TV premiere at 9 p.m Thursday on KTEH (Ch. 54). Gliner says he plans to market the hour-long film to other PBS stations. He's also sending videotape copies to members of Congress to encourage aid for El Salvador.

Gliner, a sociologist at San Jose State University, donated his labor to produce the film in English and in Spanish with Les Gardner, who financed the project; the costs are still being tabulated.

State Senator Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, is one of the film's narrators. She is a native of El Salvador. ''Californians might think we are in a crisis with the energy problems we are experiencing,'' says Figueroa, who represents southern Alameda County. ''But seeing what the El Salvadorans are going through will give us a deeper understanding of what 'crisis' means.''

El Salvador's first quake -- with a 7.6 magnitude -- caused great damage in January. A month later, a second temblor spread more destruction. Almost 1,200 people were killed, and 8,000 were injured. One out of five people is homeless. Many children are now orphans.

'We're blessed with so much affluence here,'' says Gardner, a Felton businessman. ''It's important people see this film, so they can get behind the rebuilding of El Salvador.''

''The devastation has left 20 percent of El Salvador's population homeless -- the equivalent of 50 million Americans without shelter,'' says Gliner. ''We made the movie to help provide people with emergency funding and to influence long-term economic development in El Salvador through Congress and other organizations in the United States.'' Some of the most poignant footage shows Salvadoran soldiers in camouflage carrying not weapons, but hammers and nails, rebuilding homes and businesses.

For Gliner, it was the girl in her crisp school blouse that ''really got to me the first day of shooting. When I heard her say she lost her mother, I teared up.''

At a tent camp amid the devastation, Gliner spotted barefoot little kids playing without toys. ''They were laughing and chasing each other. The human spirit lives on.''

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