Inside The Emotional Music of ELMA’S DREAMS With Composer Bruno Valenti

Chris Hadley
9 min readFeb 19, 2024

“In war, truth is the first casualty.” While that observation from heralded Greek dramatist Aeschylus was made centuries ago, his words are still pertinent as today’s persuasive politicians, manipulative propagandists and deceptive social media bots unceasingly attempt to influence and fracture the populace during wartime.

Truth was also only one casualty of the nearly four month skirmish between Great Britain and Argentina for authority of the Falkland, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands in 1982. The conflict killed 904 fighters on both sides — 255 British, 649 Argentine — plus three Falkland Island civilians.

After the end of the war, the loss of its truth came when the identifies of the Argentinians who perished were undocumented for almost four decades. Working to reclaim the names and legacies of those anonymous heroes are two men who first fought as rivals during the Malvinas War: then-British Army colonel Geoffrey Cardozo and ex-Argentinian soldier Julio Aro. Both were co-nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for their partnership in forensically identifying the remains of unidentified Argentine war victims.

Cardozo and Aro’s history-saving discoveries, and the incredible impact of their work on the mother of one of the battle’s once-unknown decedents, is followed by filmmaker Miguel Monforte in the documentary Los Sueños de Elma (Elma’s Dreams).

Here, Elma is 80-year old Elma Pelozo, whose 19 year old-son Gabino Ruiz Díaz died on the front lines of the Malvinas War. One of 115 previously unidentified Argentinian soldiers entombed at the Argentine Military Cemetery on East Falkland (or the Darwin Cemetery, named for its proximity to the island’s Darwin settlement), Díaz is finally remembered by his nation for his courage, earning a full military burial and a new grave marker that forever records the name of a man who sacrificed himself for the survival of Argentina.

In profound debt to the two former battlefield opponents whose research saved her son from being permanently forgotten, Elma vows not only to make her acquaintance with Cardozo and Aro but to also pay tribute to the child she gave her life to — and the soldier who gave his life to their homeland.

As Elma’s Dreams director Monforte and his cinematographers visually spotlight the heartwarming union between Cardozo, Aro and Pelozo, composer Bruno Valenti underlays in the film a score that makes an equally stirring impression aurally. Through Valenti’s orchestration for strings and classical guitar, a spectrum of emotions — longing, remembrance, sorrow, joy — resounds in the score’s themes.

With Elma as the dramatic focal point of the story, Valenti’s motifs and arrangements ebb, flow and evolve as the titular dreamer and the historians who revived her son’s memory traverse a poignant path that ends with a tremendously overdue tribute to a mother’s beloved son and a country’s patriot.

The music for Elma’s Dreams can be streamed on Amazon Music and YouTube (links to both below). I recently talked with Valenti about his soundtrack for Monforte’s bittersweet story of a mother’s search for her lost son, and that of the duo who brought his memory back to both her and Argentina.

Edited for clarity.

ELMA’S DREAMS composer Bruno Valenti.

Chris Hadley: How and when did you become involved with scoring this film?

Bruno Valenti (composer, Elma’s Dreams): A few years ago I gave a film scoring masterclass in the city of Mar del Plata, Argentina which was attended by a friend of the film’s director Miguel Monforte. It was he who introduced me to Miguel. We started chatting about the project through Zoom calls since we were going through the pandemic at the time and couldn’t meet in person. About two years later, I spoke again with Miguel, who already had the project in post-production. That’s when we started working on the score.

CH: In addition to scoring many scripted narrative films and web series, you also composed music for two short documentaries — 2017’s Sergio and 2018’s Visibles. How did working on those projects prepare you for scoring a feature-length documentary in Elma’s Dreams, and what did you do to prepare for that task in a compositional sense?

BV: I wish there was a way for me to prepare for a specific project! I believe that each project is unique and therefore requires a unique approach as well. Anyway, if we talk about preparation, I think this occurs in the spotting sessions with the director. I believe that the first step in composition begins long before writing a single musical note. A deep understanding of the story the director wants to tell and how he wants to tell it is crucial to everything that happens next. In other words, what I do is translate that emotional and/or narrative language into musical language.

CH: What were the most challenging and the most rewarding parts of scoring this film?

BV: I think the most challenging aspect of this documentary was discovering what the main mission of the music in it is. Although it is an optimistic and hopeful story, it is conditioned by the context of the war in which it takes place. The biggest challenge with scoring Elma’s Dreams was trying to empathize with the different emotions that a mother of a fallen soldier in the Malvinas can feel.

At this point it was very important to have a very close contact with the director since he had the opportunity to interview her repeatedly as well as share conversations and very close moments with Elma. Being part of the history of the Malvinas in some way is undoubtedly very gratifying in itself. However, finding myself with the pleasant surprise that the music has been able to connect with the emotions of the audience has taken this experience of scoring this film to the next level!

CH: You based the music for this film around a very simple yet identifiable motif that appears and reappears in new guises throughout the score. Describe that theme, as well as what it represents, and the emotions you aimed to capture with your score.

BV: That theme is not connected to the characters but to the journey they are all going through together. The emotions that the same theme invokes depends on the way in which it is arranged and orchestrated. Although the theme is kept intact to have a thematic consistency in the story, Elma’s “clothing” allows us to experience different emotions like hope, frustration and desolation to name a few.

L-R: Elma Pelozo, Geoffrey Cardozo and Julio Aro. Photo courtesy

CH: In an individual sense, what was your process for composing the theme for the people we follow in this film — Geoffrey Cardozo, Julio Aro, Elma Pelozo and her late son/wounded Argentine soldier Gabino Ruiz Diaz?

BV: The origin of this theme arises from track 3 on the score album. The song “Echoes of Hope” arises from an Argentine folkloric style called the Chacarera. That was the cue that gave rise to the main theme of the score. It is a theme linked to the adventure that they were going to go through together in that point of the story.

CH: What did you do, process-wise, to create and redevelop that motif while also conjuring new emotions in its presentations?

BV: To evoke new emotions in the presentation of this theme, what I did was adapt the harmony and orchestration while also preserving the general contour of the main melody in a way that continuity in the story can be preserved. In other words, I sought to explore the flexibility of the arrangements but without breaking the original theme.

CH: How does that theme correspond not just to the stories of Geoffrey and Julio but also that of Elma, whose missions are to meet Geoffrey (who buried her son and helped uncover his identity with Julio) and to see Gabino’s newly marked grave?

BV: The main theme encompasses both of Elma’s dreams. What changes is the way they are arranged and orchestrated. Although the realization of her dreams is something positive, changing the context in which they occur leads us to invoke different emotions with music. To be more specific, the first of the dreams occurs in the Darwin cemetery in front of the grave of her son.

Although realizing that dream provides some type of relief and tranquility for Elma, the fact that it occurs in a cemetery and is always tinged with the sadness of war means that the music cannot escape those mixed emotions. On the contrary, the other dream comes true when Geoffrey visits Elma in the warmth of his home and the music is not trapped and conditioned by the sadness that a cemetery forces one to experience.

CH: In terms of the motif and its evolution throughout the score, how (if at all) does the instrumentation and orchestration help to forward the growth of that theme on both an emotional and narrative level?

BV: Being basically a main theme for the entire score, instrumentation and orchestration play a crucial role in the emotional and narrative evolution of this soundtrack. Although a good part of the narrative conduction has its origin from the harmonic and melodic point of view, its emotional growth is largely in the hands of the orchestration.

There are moments where this is orchestrated in a very minimalist way, only by an acoustic guitar and on the contrary, the same theme is orchestrated in more epic moments for a full orchestra. This allows us to preserve the thematic continuity of the score but using different “clothes” that adapt to the different moments in the story with their respective emotional needs.

Nearly four decades after the end of the Malvinas War, Elma Pelozo visits the newly identified grave of her late son/Argentinian soldier, Gabino Ruiz Diaz, at the Argentine Military Cemetery on East Falkland. Photo courtesy

CH: Considering that Elma’s Dreams is a story of past, present and future told through the perspectives of its protagonists, how does the score convey each passage of time and the feelings connected to those periods?

BV: I think the main proposal of the documentary is an invitation to reflect on how we connect as human beings. In the past, there was a general tendency to assume that two people belonging to countries that had been at war were by nature enemies.

The core proposal of this documentary aims to transcend that outdated notion and encourages the audience to connect with the human side of individuals, irrespective of where they happened to be born. Absolutely no war is justified, much less a war based on inheriting a nationality.

The musical score of this documentary speaks from that common ground we all share as human beings and attempts to resonate with the primary emotions that anyone can feel, regardless of their place of birth.

CH: The released soundtrack for this film contains 14 cues, which were assembled from a longer cut of the score. As you prepared the album, how did you put these cues together, which ones did you feel were the best examples of what you wanted the music to achieve, and how did you determine which cues to place on the album?

BV: The choice of tracks for the album was mainly based on the cues that could stand out as absolute music. Often, we as composers create cues that work and perfectly complement both the sound and visual elements, but when heard outside of that context, they lack enough content to be appreciated in isolation. On the other hand, the premise for this album was to present a selection of cues that, when listened to together and in a specific order, would allow the listener to immerse themselves in a story that develops as each of the tracks progresses.

CH: Overall, what do you hope your score for Elma’s Dreams will achieve — both for the viewer and the listener?

BV: Fortunately, both those who have watched the documentary and those who have only listened to the soundtrack have been deeply moved by the music. I believe there is no greater reward for a composer than being able to touch people’s hearts in some way. The feedback from the audience propels us as composers to continue creating and always give our best.

Listen to Valenti’s score for Los Sueños de Elma (Elma’s Dreams) on Amazon Music:

The soundtrack can also be heard on YouTube:

Follow Bruno Valenti on his official web site:



Chris Hadley

Writer, @SnobbyRobot, @FSMOnlineMag, Writer/Creator, @LateLateNewsTV