Sony Pictures Classics
Men With Guns Synopsis

A native woman, cooking at a campfire, tells her young daughter about a man from the city. "He can put his hand inside of your body and tell what your sickness is....He's a doctor."

Humberto Fuentes (Federico Luppi), a wealthy doctor who is approaching retirement, has never paid attention to the realities of the political life of his country. He considers the greatest achievement of his life, his "legacy," to be his participation in an international health program in which he trained young students to work as doctors in the poorest villages. When Dr. Fuentes announces his intention to visit his students in the mountains, his children and his most prominent patient, an army general, try to dissuade him.

One day in the market in the Capital City where he lives, Fuentes sees Bravo (Roberto Sosa), who was the best student in the program. He follows him to a squalid slum in the outskirts of the city, Los Perdidos, where Bravo operates a "pharmacy." Fuentes asks Bravo why he isn't in the countryside working among the poor. But Bravo will only say, "Go find Cienfuegos" (another of Fuentes' students). "He's got the whole story."

Federico Luppi

That night, Fuentes tests his heart with his stethoscope. The results aren't good.

Still, the next morning, the doctor begins his voyage. Driving his son's car, Fuentes crosses a dry plain, encountering only an Old Salt Vendor, some truck drivers and a pair of North American tourists, Harriet (Kathryn Grody) and Andrew (Mandy Patinkin) spending their vacation visiting the area's Indian ruins.

Fuentes reaches Cienfuegos' village, Rio Seco, in Sugarcane country. But no one in the village responds to Fuentes' questions, and they hide in their houses when he approaches. Finally, an old blind woman tells him that Cienfuegos was killed: he was burned to death by "men with guns."

When Fuentes tells his story to a local police captain, the officer replies that there are guerrillas in the area, and it would be dangerous to continue farther from the capital. But Dr. Fuentes is determined to find his other students. That night at his hotel he runs into the tourists again and it is clear that they are on a trip very different than his.


In the next town, Tierra Quemada, in an area of coffee plantations, Fuentes has no success finding his second student, Arenas, but he meets a young boy, Conejo (Dan Rivera Gonzalez). Conejo is a child of a rape, abandoned by his mother. The boy became a kind of troop mascot until the army left him in this village, dying of hunger. Conejo knows the areas the doctor wants to visit and a wary friendship starts up between the boy and the old man. Conejo leads Fuentes to a secret cemetery in the woods, where the soldiers from the army have dumped the bodies of their enemies as an example to the people. They arrive at the abandoned school, the site of torture and murders over the years, and the place where Dr. Arenas was killed. Since there are no hotels in the area, they spend the night in the school.

The next day, Conejo leads Dr. Fuentes to a burnt and deserted village at the edge of the jungle, Caras Sucias, but there is no trace of Fuentes' student doctor, Echevarria, or any other inhabitants. They were "Banana People," says Conejo, persecuted and murdered by "men with guns," and now no one lives here. When they return to the car, they discover that someone has stolen the tires.

Federico Luppi and Dan Riviera Gonzalez

Later, a young indigenous man, Domingo (Damián Delgado) appears walking alone. When Dr. Fuentes asks for his help, Domingo pulls out a pistol and robs him and Conejo.

Not a single car passes until nightfall, when Domingo returns driving a stolen car and with a bullet in his rib. Mistrustful of the doctor's drugs, he forces Fuentes to operate on him without an anaesthetic. They set out in the morning in Fuentes' car with the tires from the stolen car. Domingo reveals that he is a deserter from the Army, without a home or destination. He orders Fuentes to identify him as his chauffeur if they run into a barricade, and to account for his bandages by saying that he's been bitten by a snake. That night, while Domingo is sleeping, Fuentes examines his pistol and finds it empty. He doesn't reveal his discovery to Domingo, nor to Conejo.

The next day they drive to a larger town where there is an open air market. Ignoring Domingo's threats, Fuentes goes in search of his student who should be living there. He sees a stall with medical instruments for sale and suspects that they belonged to his student, de Soto. The vendor points out the doctor's office, but on entering, Fuentes finds that it is now a barbershop. The barber tells him that Dr. de Soto was assassinated by the guerrillas for treating wounded soldiers from the army. Meanwhile, without Fuentes' knowledge, Domingo manages to buy three bullets for his pistol in the market.

Damian Delgado

The travelers leave town and start into the mountains. At the side of a road, they see a man who seems lost, Portillo (Damián Alcázar). Unaware that the gun is no longer empty, Fuentes disregards Domingo's threats and invites Portillo to ride with them. Portillo seems a little crazy, and tells them he is a defrocked priest escaping his past. As darkness falls, the travelers slide the car off the road to avoid notice by the army. Dr. Fuentes encounters two "Gum People" — chicle workers — who invite the travelers to share their camp for the night. Sitting around the campfire, the chicle workers ask their visitors for a story to pass the time. Portillo offers to tell one: a ghost story.

He begins to recount his experience as a priest in a little village high in the mountains. The army, in their war against the guerrillas, decided that seven men from the village were subversives, and that the other inhabitants of the village must execute the seven to save the village from massacre. The name of Padre Portillo was seventh on the list. With no hope of running away or fighting back against the army, the entire village, led by the condemned men, voted to follow the army's orders. But the priest seized an opportunity to flee. The others went along with the sacrifice, but when the army came and didn't find a seventh body, they burnt the village, killing all they found. And now Portillo is like a ghost, wandering the earth without faith or hope.

In the morning, Domingo asks Portillo to hear his confession. Portillo says he is no longer a priest, but Domingo tells him his sins anyway. He recalls his initiation into the army when he killed a prisoner by stabbing him to death.

Damian Alcazar

Later, Fuentes' car is detained at an army barricade. When the army Sergeant interrogates the passengers, Portillo sacrifices himself by repeating the story about Domingo and the snakebite, but maintaining that he himself is only 'a ghost.' The Sergeant detains Portillo and orders the others to a refugee camp. In the prison-like camp, Modelo, dozens of indigenous refugees are living in little shacks surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Dr. Fuentes, with the help of Domingo, who was a medic in the army, treats the sick inhabitants of Modelo. A young woman, Graciela (Tania Cruz), appears, mute and suffering from stomach pain since she was raped three years before. Though Fuentes says her pain is only psychological, Domingo gives her some pills. Fuentes finds out that the doctor from the nearby village, another of his students, was assassinated. He also hears the rumors of a hidden village, high in the jungle, called Cerca del Cielo, to which refugees have fled to escape from all the men with guns. Apparently, Montoya, the last of Fuentes' students, is living there.


Fuentes, Conejo and Domingo drive away from Modelo that night. Not far from the camp, they meet Graciela who is waiting for them by the road. Once again, Fuentes disregards Domingo's threats and invites Graciela to join them. They spend the night in a ruined church. Graciela sits apart from them, frightened of men. She listens to Domingo as he scoffs at the rumor of Cerca del Cielo and to Dr. Fuentes as he decides to go looking for the village anyway.

In the morning, Graciela takes the pistol before Domingo wakes up and leaves the church. Dr. Fuentes follows her to the river bank where he finds her at the point of suicide. Believing that the gun is empty he makes a joke and then repeats some idyllic phrases from a tourist guide to describe the safe haven of Cerca del Cielo. With new hope, she gives him the gun.

The road ends and the strange family climbs the steep mountain on foot. Watching Graciela, Domingo remembers an assault on an indigenous village when he was a soldier, when he raped a girl so he wouldn't look like a coward in front of his comrades.

Tania Cruz

Domingo is annoyed with Fuentes who can't climb quickly because of his heart, and he leaves him behind with the others. Suddenly in the darkness of the jungle, they hear the voices of the American tourists and discover them standing among ancient ruins. Andrew and Harriet invite them to have lunch. They recount the story of the robbery of their car a few days ago and Andrew tells them that he knows about the people who once lived here, the Lotecs.

The tourists, satisfied and oblivious, depart at dusk. Moments later, four guerrillas appear from out of the jungle with Domingo as prisoner. Fuentes tells them that Domingo was wounded fleeing from Modelo, and that he picked him up on the road. The guerrillas release Domingo. They finish the rest of the picnic and say they've never seen Cerca del Cielo but that they have heard of Doctor Montoya.

The guerrillas are gone in the morning. The four travelers climb in the heat through the steep jungle, as Fuentes struggles to breathe.


The native woman at the fire (from the film's opening) tells her daughter, "They're here." The mother reveals a badly injured leg.

Finally, the travelers reach the top of the hill and see the meager huts and garden plots of Cerca del Cielo. There is no doctor. The people here have escaped all the men with guns but it has cost them dearly. They live in terrible poverty.

Dr. Fuentes, exhausted by the exertion of the climb, sits down beneath a tree and observes the "village." "It's my legacy," he says. The events of the journey have ended his innocence, his ignorance of what has been happening in his country. Domingo is bitter, here at the end of the road. He speaks to Dr. Fuentes, but the doctor is dead. His heart has failed him.

The little girl from the campfire approaches Conejo and Domingo, and says that her mother has a bad leg, injured by an exploding mine. She needs a doctor. "The doctor is dead," Domingo says. But the little girl insists, and finally Graciela hands the bag to Domingo. He sighs, but then goes to examine the injured woman, becoming the new doctor of Cerca del Cielo.

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