Sunday, December 16, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Sin Nombre (2009) ****

R, 96 min.
Director/Writer: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Edgar Flores, Paulina Gaitan, Kristian Ferrer, Giovanni Florido, Diana García, Gerardo Taracena, Fernando Manzano, Guillermo Villegas

“Sin Nombre” is a devastating film about two lives that intersect in one’s attempt to cross the Mexican boarder to the U.S. She is a teenage Honduran whose father has been deported from a family she doesn’t know in America. Her father is determined to bring her and his brother back to the States with him. The other is a Guatemalan gang member who may not be made for the life he’s chosen. We meet him as he recruits a young boy into the gang whose initiation involves a brutal beating by the other members of the gang.

The gang’s practice of raiding the trains to steal from people immigrating to America is what brings their lives together. She needs some drive to pull her into the idea of America. She doesn’t feel like she belongs to the family her father is bringing her to. She sees this gang member needing to escape from his life. He gives her the need to escape herself.

Cary Fukunaga’s film is beautiful in its stark look at these lives. He shows us two choices that must be made in the way these characters want to live their lives in a place that offers few choices. He finds beauty in their environments. A train yard, the little hovels of a Honduran hillside, a cemetery where the graves might be filled by souls before any bodies are ever buried there, this is a Mexico of dark beauty. He shows us the need for the choice to immigrate illegally.

Although it does involve illegal immigration, I don’t think it is about that so much as it is about the choices these people are faced with and how they approach those decisions. The new recruit is just a boy, but he worships these gang members who are responsible for the terror much of the citizens live under. It also shows us that the choice to immigrate is not an easy one. No one enters into it lightly. The journey is dangerous and many look down on the immigrants while the gang members who bring such violence into the citizens’ lives are treated with respect.

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