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"Sin Nombre" (****) (96 minutes)

Monday May 25, 2009

The best film I've seen this year, this great first effort by writer/director Cary Fukunaga is, literally, a mind blower!! Winner of the Directing and Cinematography Awards at this year's Sundance, this realistic masterpiece will stay with you, as I like to say, long after the lights come up.

The plot follows 2 separate story lines that later converge. The first follows Casper/"Willy" (new comer Edgar Flores), a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang based in Tapachula, Mexico as he is about to bring in a new recruit: 12-year-old "Smiley" (Kristyan Ferrer). The second follows Sayra (Paulina Gaitlan), a Honduras teenager, about to join forces with her father (whom she barely knows) and uncle in Mexico to immigrate on the tops of trains to New Jersey. Her father was deported and is trying to reunite his family in The States. How these stories collide is both equally thrilling and heartbreaking.

The story telling is top notch and the beauty of the 35mm print is breathtaking! The director was inspired by a 2003 story in which 80 illegal immigrants were locked inside a truck and abandoned resulting in 19 deaths. To affect the realism, he rode the trains for days.

The experience will provide a view of modern day Mexico that will have you rethinking your position on such issues as gang violence and immigration by putting you squarely in the middle of this culture in a way few films have ever done. These are people who will risk everything to better their lot in life-no matter the odds.

It continuously galls me that the endless stream of Hollywood dreck rakes in dollar after dollar while films such as this struggle to find an audience. "Sin Nombre" (which means "the nameless") has already opened in limited release. If you can't see it in a theater, put it at the top of your Netflix list.

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