Edinburgh International Film Festival

Sin Nombre (2008)

Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta Mejia, Diana Garciá, Luis Fernando Peña, Hector Jiménez

Directed by: Cary Fukunaga

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Paulina Gaitan and Edgar Flores in Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre is a Latin American Romeo and Juliet story played out against a backdrop of rival gang warfare and the desperate struggle of illegal immigrants making their way north to the promised land of the USA.

Willy (aka El Casper, played by Edgar Flores) is a member of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang, a heavily tattooed band of desperadoes who arm themselves with homemade pipe guns and machetes and make CSI: Miami's Mala Noche look like the Red Hand Gang.

 Foolishly, Willy pisses of the psychotic leader of his chapter, Lil' Mago (Tenoch Huerta), who attacks and kills his girlfriend then enlists him on a mission to rob a freight train packed with immigrants bound north. On this train is Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) a young Honduran girl heading for New Jersey with her father and uncle. When Lil' Mago tries to rape her, Willy can take no more: he shoots his leader and throws him from the train.

Of course, from that moment on, his fate is sealed, and he's 'green lit' for execution. But really the gritty, unromantic portrayal of the gang culture (based on two years of perilous research) makes it clear that he was doomed to meet a violent death the minute he signed up. Yet while the gangs gather their forces to take revenge, there's time for love to blossom between the two teens, and the tender innocence of their tentative relationship contrasts starkly with the dirty, dangerous existences they're forced to lead.

Shot on location in Mexico, the film boasts both stunning and squalid settings so vivid you can almost smell them, and the shots from the train-top in particular are superb. Excellent performances from the young leads mean you really come to care about their story – which makes the brutal yet inevitable ending all the more shocking and moving.

A beautiful debut from New York based director Cary Fukanaga, Sin Nombre offers a fascinating, emotive and at times horrifying glimpse into a way of life few people in comfy old Britain can imagine. It's due an independent release in August so don't miss it.

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