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Sundance award-winning film on illegal immigration deals with the “other” immigrants

LatinaLista — While the issue of illegal immigration may not be a priority for most Americans these days, it still remains a popular and powerful cinema topic. The latest movie that takes a honest look at what is still driving people, far beyond Mexico, to risk their lives to come to the United States is already an award-winning film.

A scene from Sin Nombre.
(Source: Sin Nombre)

Sin Nombre, written and directed by student Academy Award winner Cary Joji Fukunaga, premiered at Sundance last month and won the Directing Award, along with, Excellence in Cinematography Award. Two of the Spanish-language movie’s executive producers are Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal.
The film deals with Honduran teens, who each has her/his own motivation for coming to the U.S., and the dangerous journey they all undertake riding on the tops of trains through Mexico to the U.S. border.

Sin Nombre tells the story of Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a teenager living in Honduras, and hungering for a brighter future. A reunion with her long-estranged father gives Sayra her only real option – emigrating with her father and her uncle into Mexico and then the United States, where her father now has a new family.
Meanwhile, Casper, a.k.a. Willy (Edgar Flores), is a teenager living in Tapachula, Mexico, and facing an uncertain future. A member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang brotherhood, he has just brought to the Mara a new recruit, 12-year-old Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer), who undergoes a rough initiation.
While Smiley quickly takes to gang life, Casper tries to protect his relationship with girlfriend Martha Marlene (Diana García), keeping their love a secret from the Mara. But when Martha encounters Tapachula’s Mara leader Lil’ Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), she is brutally taken from Casper forever.
Sayra and her relatives manage to cross over into Mexico. There, they join other immigrants waiting at the Tapachula train yards. When a States-bound freight train arrives one night, they successfully rush to board – riding atop it, rather than in the cars – as does Lil’ Mago, who has commandeered Casper and Smiley along to rob immigrants.
When day breaks, Lil’ Mago makes his move and Casper in turn makes a fateful decision. Casper must now navigate the psychological gauntlet of his violent existence and the physical one of the unforgiving Mara, but Sayra bravely allies herself with him as the train journeys through the Mexican countryside towards the hope of new lives.

The film opens March 20 nationwide. The film’s writer and director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, shared his feelings about the film in an online interview. What was interesting was that he described his film as a Western, rather than any kind of tragedy.

FilmInFocus: In the production notes you describe the film as something of a Western. Why is that?
Fukunaga: The themes of the film are those of a Western. I think [producer] Amy [Kaufman] sees it as a Greek tragedy, but I see it as a Western because of the trains, the story of crossing the plains to get to a better life, the bandits, and the old fashioned sense of morals. You break the rules and you get punished.

As we see from Sin Nombre, by the time these people arrive on U.S. soil, they’ve been punished far worse that what they have to put up with in the United States seems like a respite from all their problems.

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