Given the amount of news coverage of Mexican drug violence in the past month, you might assume from its opening reel that Sin Nombre is going to be a City of God-inspired movie about young gang members. And weak-stomached viewers may find themselves disinclined to stick around for more after witnessing the violent initiation procedures of Mara Salvatrucha (an actual gang headquartered in Mexico and Los Angeles). But Sin Nombre actually has more in common with Maria Full of Grace, El Norte, Under the Same Moon, and other films about immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally.
The main thread follows Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a young Honduran girl who accompanies her uncle and the father she hasn’t seen in years (for reasons we never learn) on a journey into the US. Their ultimate goal is New Jersey, where the father has family. They plan to make their way from Chiapas to the US border by riding the tops of railroad cars, the actual practice of thousands of immigrants. Debuting filmmaker Cary Fukunaga researched the film by accompanying several such groups of immigrants, and exposing a new facet of this seemingly endless wave of desperation is a more than sufficient raison d’etre. He has said in interviews that he added the gang subplot in order to give the story some dramatic structure (Sayra falls under the protection of a young man on the on the run from the Mara after breaking its rules), though it seems to function more to appeal to audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily come to see something so socially conscious. Embracing classic cinematic style (no hand-held digital cameras here), Fukunaga has succeeded in making an audience-friendly film, demonstrated when Sin Nombre won the awards for best direction and cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Watch the trailer for Sin Nombre
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Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n17 (Week of Thursday, April 23, 2009) > Film Reviews > Sin Nombre
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