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March 20, 2009


Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre

Manohla Dargis' review of the new movie about Central Americans trying to cross the border into the US, Sin Nombre, isn't super-positive. The teenage characters at the center of the story are maybe a little too adorable and all the horrible things that happen to them might get "assuaged by some final-act uplift," but it's got nice cinematography, and she says the writer/director has a sincerity that a lot of other movies about desperate people lack.

But then I read more about the writer/director, Cary Fukunaga, in an email to the members of the Landmark Theatres Film Club (it's a very exclusive club) about his travels with people that come up from Central America to cross the border, and now it sounds pretty incredible.

From the email:

While researching a short, I had learned that thousands of Central American immigrants were crossing Mexico atop freight trains, facing a maelstrom of dangers, including bandits, gangs, corrupt police, and the constant threat of deportation back to their home countries. The images conjured up a post-industrial version of our own iconic Wild West, but instead of covered wagons it was a freight train, and instead of the classic Hollywood version of "savages" it was marauding bandits and tattoo-covered gang members who seemed to have been pulled from central casting in Mad Max. And yet this wasn’t the Wild West; it was real and it was happening, is still happening, just south of our border. This was the story I wanted to tell.

I followed the first draft with two years of research in Mexico. I spent time with gang members in and out of prisons, interviewed immigrants from Nicaragua on up to the Texas border and, ultimately, traveled with hundreds of them from Tapachula in the south of Mexico to Orizaba, Veracruz. Together we experienced hunger, braved the weather and nights of hidden dangers, and grew to depend on one another. One particularly dark night in Chiapas our train was attacked by bandits; after several gunshots and screams of chaos, a Guatemalan immigrant lay dead—he did not want to give up the little money he had to make this journey.

Sounds a whole lot more exciting than El Norte from 10th grade Spanish class! And that's because more violent = more exciting. Getting across the border is a lot more dangerous now, especially with the rise of international gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, which started in LA and moved to other US cities, then back to El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. They're the guys who are really into getting tattoos on their faces and killing people, and they're all over Sin Nombre.

Actually, it might be a good idea to sneak into I Love You, Man after watching this one. Let the doughy-faced, Rush fan, man love help you recover.

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 3:06 PM | #

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