Spanish director Diego Quemada-Diez was a camera assistant on Ken Loach’s Carla’s Song, Land and Freedom and Bread and Roses, and there is something very Loachian in this tough, absorbing, suspenseful drama about three Guatemalan kids trying illegally to cross the Mexican border into the US.
Quemada-Diez has found three excellent non-professional actors for his lead roles. Brandon López and Karen Martínez play Juan and Sara, two kids who are desperate to get out of Guatemala, along with a young Indian boy they meet, Chauk (Rodolfo Domínguez). With some US dollar bills sewn secretly into their jeans, they plan on hopping boxcars and riding the rails up through Mexico and then over the border into California, this last part requiring them to work their passage by volunteering as drug mules for the gangs running heroin through secret crossing points. At every stage, these vulnerable teenagers face danger and almost certain death from predatory criminals to whom their young lives are worth less than zero. It is a very substantial movie, with great compassion and urgency.
Winner, Best International Film & Audience Award, Mar del Plata Film Festival
Winner, Golden Alexander, Best Director & Audience Award, Thessaloniki International Film Festival