El Norte | Chicago Reader

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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