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The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez 
Written by: on September 30th, 2007


Theatrical Release Date: Germany/Switzerland, 2006
Director: Heidi Specogna
Cast: José Antonio Gutierrez, Veronica Morales, Patrick Atkinson, Marc Montez

DVD released: September 25th, 2007
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English / Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, German
DVD Release: Atopia
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.98


The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez is a compelling documentary about one man’s search for the identity and family that where taken away from him as a young boy during a civil war going on at the time in Guatemala. The story traces his life from the age of eight when he was discovered up until his untimely death during the Iraqi war in 2003. Through out the documentary we are introduced to the social workers, friends and the sister of José Antonio Gutierrez and in return each person fondly helps fill in the banks of his all too brief life. The most emotional moments all involve that of José Antonio Gutierrez only living relative his sister who looks visibly shaken having lost her brother again and this time forever.

Director Heidi Specogna does a superb job building up the life story of José Antonio Gutierrez. The pacing is somber and never rushed as they story unfolds at near perfect pace. One thing about the documentary that I enjoyed is that it doesn’t take a heavy handed approach towards the Iraqi where José Antonio Gutierrez ultimately came to an end. There is a very powerful moment near the end of the documentary with another solider from Guatemala who also happened to be serving in Iraq at the same time as José Antonio Gutierrez levels some of the films hashes criticisms as he describes José Antonio Gutierrez final moments alone bleeding to death.

The story of José Antonio Gutierrez is like that of so many Latino’s who migrate from South and Central America in hopes of finding a better future for them and their families. The death of  José Antonio Gutierrez has brought about one significant change and that is now you do not have to wait tell you return from active duty to obtain your citizenship it is given to you the moment you enlist. José Antonio Gutierrez was born into one war the civil war in his homeland of Guatemala and he would end his life fighting in another one in Iraq. Ultimately The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez is a somber journey that never tries to water down the facts of the story or distort the truth like so many documentaries often do lately.

The DVD:

The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. The video transfer looks clean and there are no noticeable problems with edge enhancement or artifacts. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback.

The Dolby Digital stereo audio mix which is in English and Spanish is clear and free of any audio defects. Four subtitle options have been included English, Spanish, French & German.

The extra outside of a fourteen minuet interview consist of trailers.

Ultimately the Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez is a mesmerizing documentary that gets a first arte DVD release from Atopia.

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