On Tuesday I decided to sleep in. I mean, marginally more than every other day. Sleeping in is definitely on the list of things I am only good at in the Northern Hemisphere (apparently). For example: most people who know me, know that I have a terrible sense of direction. REALLY terrible, like embarrassingly, “this isn’t funny anymore you’re just an idiot”, terrible. In the SOUTHERN hemisphere. Strangely, but pleasingly, I haven’t been lost once since I arrived in San Francisco- a foreign town I have only visited once before nearly a decade ago! It’s so weird, but certain things just click for me here- one of them is knowing where I am and where I’m going (and maybe even my left from my right? shooting too high?), and another is the magical super power of Sleeping In. Bless.
So anyway, as I was saying. I slept in on Tuesday. The only thing I wanted to do was go and see a movie. After weighing up all the options and neighbourhoods I decided on the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas- a movie house run by the Sundance Film Festival, and focussed on giving release to films that were highlights or discoveries of the festival. There is a second Sundance in LA apparently. And what a genius idea- to ensure that some of these films that only live during the weeks of a festival, have another life outside of it. Of course, Sundance is hardly the edgiest of festivals any longer, and you have to question at times whether they are really providing a service to art by premiering “Observe and Report”. But all in all- it’s a great movie house, where you can buy a coffee to sip during your film, and with some of the most comfortably plush cinema seating you are likely to ever find.
A bonus was that it is in Japantown, and what a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone- go to the movies and sight see at the same time…my stomach also had a vested interest. I didn’t have too much time to explore Japantown, (I’m not even going to try and locate it here- my sense of direction has not evolved that much) but what I saw was excrutiatingly cute. I had lunch, a delicious, huge, miso ramen and a kirin, in a restaurant mall whose purpose seemed to be, in all this space and light, to recreate dark, dingy, low ceilinged Japanese arcades. Which it appeared to do successfully. There was plenty of choice on offer in the apropriately subdued, placid mall, and if I wasn’t rushing for a film I probably would’ve killed the rest of the afternoon in the multi-level Kinokuniya that beckoned tantalizingly, urging me to loose the paper bills from my person in GREAT quantity…
So anyway. Sin Nombre was the film I saw- mainly on the strength of it’s production team: Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. These two high-profile Mexican actors have gone into the business behind the camera as well as in front, and I saw a couple of their first efforts last year when I was previewing for MIFF. To be honest, they were patchy, but it was still clear that they are talented, creative (hot) guys, who are committed to supporting the cinema, talent and culture of South America. I thought it would be worth checking out. And a fine movie it was too- I hope it gets a release in Australia, or picked up by MIFF.
Sin Nombre is essentially a journey film about the thousands of pitiful souls who, each year, risk life and limb to illegally cross the border into the USA. As you might assume, many of them pour out of the poor, rural, crime infested areas of Mexico itself, but as many again have already travelled hundreds of miles by the time they make it to the gateway to the USA. They sleep on railway tracks, ride on the top of trains, exposed to rain, searing heat, abuse and derision, constant danger and rely on the kindness of the small communities they stop through to refresh and revive. A crossing can take weeks, and there are more opportunities to die, be deported or give up than you can shake a stick at- it is a feat of endurance more than anything.
In Sin Nombre, the story centres around two characters who are thrown together (naturally, how else do you meet a guy these days?) against the backdrop of this underworld of illegal immigration. One is a young gang member who is on the run, the other a young girl who is travelling to Yersey with her father to rejoin his new family there. He saves her life in a moment that proves fateful for him, and she returns the favour when the opportunity arises. It never turns into a full-blown love story between the two- mercifully, as that probably would have pushed it over the edge into “bullshit”- but they form a tight bond and throw their lot in together for better or worse. Admittedly, it’s one of those mysterious, romantic bonds, that film makers never really feel the need to explain or justify, and that in unsure hands can be about as convincing as botox (think “Crazy/Beautiful”). But here, it works.
I’m not going to give the rest away. The scenery is incredible, and it’s a brilliantly paced, exciting, heart-rending film that made me think of all the illegal immigrants who’ve made parallel, if not identical journeys across pirate infested seas to Australia. And all the arseholes who consider this “queue jumping”. It’s very humbling, and kind of amazing to see this story told on the big screen. The cast, and the acting is generally strong, and appropriate to the high level of drama.
Oh, and by the way, everyone in this movie is INCREDIBLY hot. Did I mention that?