We supply both the arms and the market to an unstable country.

Sin Nombre

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Just a week after headlines blared the escalating violence of the migration from Mexico, a powerful new movie by Cary Fukunaga has burrowed deeper into the problem. “Sin Nombre,” based on a true story, puts faces on the statistics. The statistics are ugly: a multi-billion dollar American market for drugs crossing the border, and smugglers, newly armed with millions of dollars of arms sold to them by American arms manufacturers. We supply both the arms and a hungry market to an unstable country.

            The spreading violence is becoming wrapped as one with the export of drugs to the U.S., a barnacle on the cocaine shipments. Tucson is now known as the “kidnapping capital of the U.S.” States bordering Mexico are becoming infested with new crime. And all the while, innocent Mexicans caught in the violent chaos of their own country, are threading their way north in pursuit of the American dream.

            Writer/Director Cary Fukunaga has threaded his way=2 0through the Sundance Labs during the making of his movie, through Cannes where he won a prize for it, and into theaters where ordinary audiences are getting the taste of Mexican heartbreak and the American challenge. It is a beautifully made first film.

            The story opens with the brutal initiation of spunky young Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) into a street gang in Honduras. After the leaders inflict a terrible beating and demand vicious tests of will, Smiley is lured away by Willy (Edgar Flores) who has a second thoughts about gang life. They will ride toward Guatemala and eventual to Mexico on the packed roofs of train cars that slip northward in fits and starts, always at the mercy of bandits. As they roll through the countryside, we see the street life survival that is the destiny of the people. Death is nothing; machetes, pipe guns and pistols are the tools of daily life. It is a world of hand signals, codes, initiations, and tests, with death t he penalty for a misstep.

            The monstrous shadow of the gang La Mara hangs darkly over Smiley and Willie and Willie’s loyal new girlfriend, Sayra, as they try desperately to stay alive on a treacherous journey. Director Fukunaga rode those trains. He talked to the leaders of La Mara for explanations of their rituals and vengeance. As compelling as Fukunaga’s fictional characters are, it is the power of the gangs we must understand. It is they who are at the hub of the huge financial deal between America’s gun makers and gangs like this one. And it is we, of course, who provide the open market.

            Cary Fukunaga has made a superb film about the violence of the migration from Mexico through the eyes of several authentic non-actors who represent the flood of people risking their lives to move from a country in chaos to a country that is ambivalent about their arrival. It gives us one more moving visual image of the problem that seems to have no solution.


Copyright (c) Illusion

Return to Ellis Home Page