El Norte (1983)

Dir. Gregory Nava

I think Kevin, Penny, Chris and Grace would find this interesting, although I don’t know if I would recommend this to them.

The film is about Enrique and Rosa, siblings that flee Guatamala for the U.S. after their father is killed for organizing peasant laborers. The film depicts their struggle—both getting and living in the U.S.

Like the recent Sin Nombre, part of the film’s value is to show the struggle people make just to get to the U.S. border. The film also does a good job raising awareness the role and plight of low-wage immigrant workers in our society. For me, the biggest problem was that the filmmaker’s depictions of the hardships the main characters faced. For example, to get across the border, Enrique and Rosa must crawl through an old sewage pipe. The pipe is infested with rats and is supposed to have been pitch dark, but the scenes are filled with light, ostensibly so the audience can see the reaction of the actors. This lessened the harrowing nature of the trip. The duration of the scene also seemed to go a lot quicker than it should have, making it seem less difficult.

When they get to the U.S., instead of struggling for a significant time before making any progress, they almost immediately get a place with a job. Enrique gets a pretty decent job working as a bus person at a ritzy restaurant. He’s not making a lot of money, but he does work in a clean environment and has meals. His circumstances seemed a lot easier than I would have imagined.

I think part of the problem is that films like City of God or Sin Nombre which came out after this have upped the ante a bit. The conditions depicted in these films of people in poverty are much more harrowing and bleak than I saw in El Norte. Still, the film is interesting and is worth watching.

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