Sin Nombre (2009) directed by Cary Fukunaga
It really is amazing what our neighbors down south must go through just to get to America to live the American Dream (not to mention the hardships they have to face once they are actually here). In Sin Nombre, Sayra joins her father and uncle on the journey north starting from Honduras and through Mexico via train top. There is a lot of attention given to the hardships of the US-Mexico crossing, but traveling through Mexico is no picnic either. The train ride from southern Mexico to the US border is a two to three week journey sitting atop a train exposed to the elements, border patrol and gangs looking to make a quick buck by robbing immigrants.
That is where Willy aka Casper comes in, who is part of the fearsome Mara Salvatrucha gang. You get into this gang by a hazing ritual where you get the shit beat out of you for 13 seconds and then by killing a rival gang member. The leader of Casper's faction is Lil Mago whose tattooed face resembles that of Mel Gibson's in Braveheart before going into battle. Lil Mago attempts to rape Willy's girlfriend and accidentally kills her and Willy must take it in anguished silence. They go on a mission together to rob some immigrants on the train Sayra and her family is on. When Willy meets Sayra, their fates will be interlocked. They will be making the trip north together with the Mara Salvatrucha hot on Willy's trail.
Sin Nombre paints a terrifying picture of gang life in Mexico and the hardship of the journey north, blending them together to tell a powerful and gripping story. It is a story of two different people who are trapped in their lives looking for something on the other side and finding it in each other. It isn't really a romance; it is more of a connection between two lost souls which can be just as powerful or moving.
The story is harsh, but the images are quite beautiful. There is a serene feeling of peacefulness when the immigrants sit atop of the train rolling through the countryside. There is genuine joy in a scene where onlookers throw fruit to the immigrants on the train, wishing them luck on their journey. I thought this film was great and also a harsh reminder of just how messed up the world around us is. I know illegal immigration is a touchy subject in the U.S. and I'm sort of ambivalent towards the issue but this film is definitely an eye opener. It would seem wrong for these characters to make it to the U.S. only to be deported back after seeing what they must go through.