Sin Nombre (2009)

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Edgar Flores and an MS-13 gang leader in 'Sin Nombre'

Written and Directed by Cary Fukunaga

Sometimes a sub-genre takes on universal praise of mythical proportions, so much so that it gets to a point where it seems like films of that genre get an automatic A+. One such genre is the South American gangster film. It started with Amores Perros, continued with Cidade de Deus (City of God) and continued on so forth with Sin Nombre being the latest entry in the genre, about a young MS-13 gang member sent out to rob some innocent train jumpers. His morals get the best of him and he kills his fellow gang member in defense of the innocent passengers. He’s forced to go on the run as the gangsters back home (in accurate, scarily convincing make up tattoos replicating real gang members’ tattoos) put a worldwide bounty on his head, searching far and wide just to kill this young man who tried to do the right thing.

Now, the question is; why are these films so endlessly watchable, engrossing and universally praised? They have a formula; It starts with someone who is a part of the problem but not exactly like everybody else. Slightly different. This initial protagonist has some sort of a moral compass. Why? Because the film makers need the JoBlo audience to connect with a character and take the journey with them. To do that, you need someone who isnt all bad. They need to be conflicted because you, the audience, are conflicted. Then you have someone new to the game or whatever, someone not yet morally corrupted, but on the path. Then you have all the veteran bad guys who dont seem all that bad at first, but have very mean hobbies and wouldnt think twice about doing bad things if it meant helping themselves. Then you have the regular folk- usually parents or siblings- that try to reason with the bad influences.

Perhaps because they aren’t given untold millions and miles of green screen to make their films, latin auteurs are forced to find the drama in more human stories and as a result of this, the quality of the writing and the restraint the film makers exercise in telling their stories shows in the quality and complexity of their work and their uncompromising, unflinching willingness to tell stories the way they should be told, rather than making contrived allowances for a more satisfying viewer experience.

Sin Nombre is no different. Its a patient film about morally complex people in a morally complex environment. It is no wonder that Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal Exec Produced it. It shows.

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