Director: Gregory Nava
Starring: Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez, David Villalpando
Duration: 139 min.
After the Guatemalan army destroys their village of San Pedro, two teenage Quiche Mayan Indian siblings journey north (hence El Norte) through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life.
El Norte is a film directed by Gregory Nava and co-written by Anna Thomas. It premiered at the 1983 Telluride Film Festival, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in January 2009.
This has a story still applicable to our times, dealing with the issue of illegal immigration, and its three part structure was a good narrative choice. But I found it so poorly scripted, edited, and acted that it finds itself placed into a very short list of Criterion films that I didn't click with. Almost every line of dialog is awkwardly delivered, and the action sequences are laughable. The movie is also filled with obvious symbolism and foreshadowing that instead of being poetic, comes across as subtle as a slap in your face.
It isn't a completely terrible film, there are some enjoyable moments like an utterly terrifying sequence involving rats in a dark tunnel, and I liked the stylistically ultra loud and jarring sound effects used throughout. Also the cinematography was very solid especially during the first act in and around the small Guatemalan village. In the end though, instead of the epic and moving adventure of struggle and survival I hoped for, I got a cloying and cliched melodrama barely a notch or two above a Telenovela.
— Bonjour Tristesse