In some ways an extension of his 14-minute short Victoria Para Chino, a favorite at festivals from New York to Park City a few years back, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre dramatizes an immigrant journey from Central America to the Texas-Mexican border. Fukunaga assumes his audience is well-versed in the usual horrors that drive people from their homelands, at least as they’ve been trivialized in abominations such as Trade and Blood Diamond, avoiding predictability by focusing on gang warfare in Latin America as a form of cannibalistic oppression. The off-putting corporate sheen of the film belies Fukunaga’s sincere, casually fixated attention on the quotidian habits of his characters—from their culinary appetites to their superstitions. Nothing is spelt out yet everything is clearly understood: how El Casper (Edgar Flores)—who flees his homies after killing their obscenely tattooed leader, Lil’ Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejía)—straps himself to a latch atop a train so the trees and wind won’t knock him off; how the kindness a girl, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), shows him after he saves her from rape doesn’t stem from gratitude alone but from an understanding of their mutual loss; and how no one wants El Casper around because his presence seemingly threatens doom. Throughout El Casper and Sayra’s train ride, Fukunaga evokes the complexity and diversity of public opinions to such flights (people on the sidelines either shower them with food or stones), but his main interest always remains the territorially-obsessed nature of being part of a gang. Interestingly, Fukunaga doesn’t see El Casper’s behavior, or that of his young upstart El Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer), as some affront to civic and national pride but as a compulsion strangely akin to that of Sayra and her family to enter a capitalist society. Which is why the last image in the film is so jolting: From beginning to end, the director understands that life for most immigrants is an expansive turf war—one anxious initiation and pledge after another.
- Focus Features
- 96 min
- Cary Joji Fukunaga
- Cary Joji Fukunaga
- Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Diana García, Luis Fernando Peña, Héctor Jiménez
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