By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Sep 28, 2007 at 1:28 PM

I caught "El Violin" on Thursday night at the Milwaukee International Film Festival. After reading the one-paragraph description of it in the MIFF program, I knew it sounded like something that would, at the very least, keep me interested.

What I was not prepared for was an incredibly moving, beautifully shot and extremely well-acted film that just about blew me away and, from what I could discern from the crowd's reaction at the Times Cinema, left quite an impression on everyone else, too.

"El Violin" is part of MIFF's country focus -- this time Mexico -- and the stunning black and white film follows three male generations of one family -- grandfather Plutarco (Don Angel Tavira), son Genaro (Gerardo Taracena) and grandson Lucio (Mario Garibaldi) -- as they struggle for survival in several impoverished towns in Mexico. Plutarco plays his violin and Gernaro plays guitar while little Lucio begs for money from onlookers.

We soon find out that Gernaro is trying to earn money to buy stocks of guns to protect his village from an impending military attack. When the family returns to their home unarmed, they discover it's already too late -- their community has been destroyed and seized and everyone is gone, dead or missing.

Although this sounds like the start of an action-packed, violent movie, the surprise is in the perspective director Francisco Vargas Quevedo -- who adapted the film from an earlier short -- takes with it. It's slow, paced and full of heart-warming and, at times, hilarious, dialogue. There is a big focus on the peacefulness of music and finding common ground.

MIFF smartly chose to screen this one twice, so you still have time to see it at the UWM Union Theater on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”