El Norte

139 minutes 1983

Independent American cinema in the 80s slowly became as slick as the Hollywood product it was supposedly reacting against. Gregory Nava's 1982 drama about a Guatemalan brother and sister who escape the political oppression of their home country for a difficult life as illegal aliens in the United States, applies a variety of sophisticated rhetorical techniques to a sentimental, manipulative story line. The show-offy style, with its overanalytic editing, rhyming transitions, and portentous accordion inserts, condescends to the puppy-dog siblings by adopting a detached, superior point of view. Nava is clearly less interested in exploring the tragic reality of the situation than in wringing a few tears from Anglo audiences. Though his subject is a serious one and his intentions are apparently noble, Nava has made a film that is essentially indistinguishable from Love Story. In English and subtitled Spanish and Maya.

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