El Norte (The Criterion Collection)
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DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
New, restored high-definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Gregory Nava
New audio commentary featuring Nava
In the Service of the Shadows: The Making of El Norte: a new video program featuring interviews with Nava, producer and cowriter Anna Thomas, actors Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez and David Villalpando, and set designer David Wasco
Wall of Silence, a new short documentary by Nava and Barbara Martinez Jitner, concerning the building of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border
The Journal of Diego Rodriguez Silva, the 1972 award-winning student film by Nava
Gallery of Chipas location-scouting photographs
New and improved English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by novelist Héctor Tobar and Roger Ebert's 1983 review of the film
Directed by Gregory Nava, who wrote the screenplay with his wife Anna Thomas, El Norte portrays both the beauty and harshness of Rosa and Enrique's homeland; the low comedy and justifiable paranoia that mark their passage through Mexico, especially Tijuana, a "lost city" where everyone is "temporary"; and the culture shock of encountering America, where "even the poorest people have toilets." The filmmakers were after more than docudrama; their movie reaches for a mystical dimension, weaving imagistic and color motifs from native myth into the visual design, as well as incorporating periodic declarations about life on Earth being only a dream. The problem is that much of this comes off as earnest schematic rather than compelling cinema. The film is most alive in the presences of newcomers Gutiérrez and Villalpando; their actorly gifts are modest but sincere, and the mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation in their performances is genuine (they themselves were "without papers" as they shot their Los Angeles scenes).
This is one instance where the DVD extras markedly increase one's appreciation of the film, or more precisely, the fact that it exists at all. That's true less of director Nava's running commentary (which often sounds like a student displaying the note cards for his term paper) than of the accompanying featurette "In the Service of the Shadows: The Making of El Norte." Nava, Thomas, the two lead actors, and set designer David Wasco reminisce about the production, the effort of "a five-person crew in a VW van." Some of the stories are almost as harrowing as the film's most intense passages. These include a night in a remote Mexican village when the locals suddenly took umbrage at the film company's presence and formed into a mob--"anything could have happened, and no one would ever have known"--and a subsequent crisis when authorities seized reels of film and demanded a ransom beyond Nava's ability to pay. Apart from such melodrama-in-real-life, the documentary also impresses with revelations that, just as the Guatemalan sequences had to be shot in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Morelos (the civil war still being in progress), certain "Mexican" locations were convincingly replicated in Newhall, Calif.! "In the Service of the Shadows" is dedicated to El Norte's cinematographer, the late James Glennon (d. 2006), whose resourcefulness is gratefully remembered--shooting by candlelight in a town with no electric lighting--and whose artistry is abundantly apparent in the movie itself. --Richard T. Jameson
Stills from El Norte (Click for larger image)
Top Customer Reviews
It is a "masterpiece", it is the only movie that is based on the reality of the world (filmed in Guatemala, Mexico and United States) not only it showed the life of the 80's (the massacres of people by the governments of our countries) and it also tells how and why most of us came to this country "The North" seeking not only refugee but also a new life after being abused and tortured by the law enforcement of the Central American governments. This is the case of a brother and sister who's father is decapitated and tortured by the Guatemalan soldiers just because they don't agree with the way rich people treated their countrymen. THE BEST MOVIE EVER !... Subtitled both English/Español and Español/English. A must have, a must see.
First they have to travel through Mexico and make believe they are Mexicans. When they finally get to Tijuana they have the difficult task of finding a way across the border without being robbed by the many unsavory characters who all compete for their small amount of money. Their first attempt ends in failure but eventually they make it by crawling on their hands and knees through a sewer pipe where they are attacked by rats. Once in Los Angeles their lives seem to improve, but they soon discover the reality of being illegal. This is not a happy story and the ending is sad and left me with a feeling of hopelessness.
One of the most striking things about the film is its innocence. It certainly was filmed on a shoestring budget and has none of the special effects we've come to expect in Hollywood films. Sometimes it had the look and feel of an amateur production, the violence looked staged, the camera often focusing on a full moon rather than or more complex shots. The acting, however, was so good that I forgot they were acting and soon was completely involved in this very human story. It was plain and simple real life. And there was humor here too, especially when the young woman gets a maid's job and has to learn to use a washing machine. However, like real life, things don't always work out for the best.
I guess I've always been aware of the plight of illegal immigrants. But I have never felt it more deeply than through this film. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Allow me to preclude this review with the fact that I did not watch this movie willingly. It was a requirement for a college Spanish class that we watch and memorize particular... Read morePublished 26 days ago by Frequency
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