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:: Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre is a wildly remarkable film. The awards it received at the Sundance Film Festival, the Edinburgh Film Festival and the Stockholm Film Festival in 2009 confirm this statement. The film is a brilliant commentary on gang-life in Mexico, as well as the plight of thousands of immigrants, attempting to escape to the United States, filmed entirely in Spanish. Two storylines collide with frightful urgency and desperation. Sayra (Paulina Gaitán) lives in Honduras, where her father has finally returned from his years living illegally in New Jersey. He wants to take her back to live with his new family, and that means making the hazardous journey overland to the US. They cross through Guatemala and await a northbound train at Tapachula in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

El Casper (Edgar Flores) is a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang in Chiapas. Caught between a life with his gang’s brotherhood and maintaining his relationship with his girlfriend, Casper is conflicted. When the Mara leader, L’il Mago has a run in with Casper’s girlfriend, he demands that he and Casper’s young friend, Smiley, accompany him in robbing the passengers on the train from Tapachula. Upon the roof of a train carriage, an encounter between L’il Mago, Casper and Sayra change their lives for the worst on the journey north.

Edgar Flores’ portrayal of the tortured Casper is terrific – a teenager caught in a life of turmoil, regret and fear that he can’t escape, despite his ardent wishes to. Equally impressive is Paulina Gaitán’s performance as Sayra, struggling with the change in her life and the risks and losses along the way. Gaitán’s subtle emotional nuance is captivating and contained.

The film’s sweeping shots of beautiful landscape – from the rivers to dense tropical forests to arid, sunned sands is breathtaking. Coupled with a sensationally well researched film, Sin Nombre connects with the audience on so many levels. Director and writer, Cary Fukunaga is to be commended for compiling such an extraordinary and significant film.

DVD Extras

Deleted Scenes
Audio commentary with writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga and producer Amy Kaufman
Theatrical trailer

Most of the deleted scenes do not have sub-titles, which makes them difficult to understand how they fit in with the rest of the film. Nonetheless, they appear not to radically change the messages of the film itself. The feature commentary, contained in the special features of the DVD is absolutely fascinating. While it may seem arbitrary to watch the entire film again with the commentary on, the insights into the research, set construction, filming techniques and challenges is incredibly interesting, and worth the time to listen.