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Film Critics: Today, December 13, winners from Dallas ForthWorthFCA, ChicagoFCA and Film Comment Magazine. Nominations from HoustonFCS, PhoenixCC. PhoenixFCS.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sin Nombre


Incredibly hard to watch story, but truly mesmerizing, in an extraordinary and outstanding debut film by Cary Joji Fukunaga who definitively is a master storyteller and a master filmmaker in the making. All the honors that he and his film have been collecting are more than well deserved and I really hope that as long as continues to travel the fest circuit more honors will come to this remarkable and unforgettable film.

It is not the first film I watch about Central American immigrants to the North. I have read about their stories in newspapers, have seen one or two buildings in one country were they keep the ones that get caught, and have seen photography essays that capture reality one moment at a time. But never have I seen such great moving pictures with this subject that everyone wants it to go away, close their eyes to it and many more don’t even know that it exist. Like Fukunaga says in an interview, this is Immigration 2007. It’s not a century ago, is two years ago, is what is happening today.

The immigration story is not about reaching the US border, is about a trip from Honduras into Guatemala and Mexico and the unthinkable that people have to deal with; from endless walks, corrupted authorities and gangs.

If the immigration story was not enough hard hitting, the story also tells about something that I have to admit that I have been avoiding watching movies about. I’m talking about the Maras (gangs) and particularly the very infamous Mara Salvatrucha that from Los Angeles CA went years ago down to Mexico and now inhabits almost all Central America countries. Thousands of men and women are real “Mareros” from Salvatrucha. So, what I have been avoiding was exactly the beginning of the movie with a Salvadorean Marero boss in Tapachula, Chiapas.

I could have stopped the movie that instant, but I didn’t. Is the truly amazing Fukunaga’s storytelling abilities plus extraordinary camera moves, framing and cinematography what captured me and allowed me to watch this outstanding portrait of the violent and totally business oriented (they do what they do to make money) Maras.

Yes this is a movie about the Mara Salvatrucha and traveling illegal immigrants. But the film has a story, well, two stories that eventually merge. One is about El Casper a marero from Tapachula with a drama evolving due to sentimental reasons into revenge and fleeing from his colleagues that want to kill him. The other is about a young innocent woman, Sayra, which her deported father wants to go back to USA and this time takes her daughter and brother from Honduras into Guatemala and Tapachula. Is very close to Tapachula where the two stories merge when El Casper saves Sayra from being raped. It’s an intense story that will make you feel lots of emotions thanks to great actor’s performances and a director with great filmmaking skills.

For me it’s really remarkable than an American director (well, his father is Japanese, his mother Swedish and was born in Oakland, CA) could tell so well a story of a different culture and in Spanish. Yes the movie is in Spanish, but I strongly suggest you watch it with subtitles in any language you also understand as when the mareros talk it is not your regular and normal language. The point is that Fukunaga did many years of research into illegal immigration in the South of Mexico and with the Mara Salvatrucha; and he did three different train trips along with the illegal immigrants, so definitively he knows what he wrote and what he captured so vividly in the screen. Big Chapeau as a researcher, a writer, amazing storyteller and for making a film so well crafted that definitively belongs to the serious cinema, art cinema and arthouse cinema style.

If you feel like reading about Fukunaga experience I suggest you read this UK interview.

I strongly recommend this film as a Must Be Seen to everyone that lives in a Central American country; but I also strongly suggest to those that live in America to watch it, as probably will give you a different perspective about the illegal aliens that many see (and fear) standing at a Home Depot (or similar) corner around many American cities.

But must of all, I strongly recommend this film to everyone that likes to see Art in the screen.

I can’t hardly believe that this is Fukunaga’s first feature film, as he is Impressive. This is one director that I hope won’t be seduced by Hollywood into making blockbuster movies (he has already projects with two main studios… pity) and continues to make something that is truly rare: American art cinema with hard hitting emotional stories.

Big Enjoy!!!

Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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