Sin Nombre (2009)—Mexico
The first and last minutes of this film about immigration feature Willy and Smiley, members of a ruthlessly violent gang in southern Mexico. Their character development across the course of the film results in total role reversals. The tipping point comes when their gang robs hundreds of migrants who trudge from Honduras through Guatemala, then hop a freight train in Mexico to the US border. These vulnerable and illegal immigrants face every obstacle imaginable as they chase their dream for a better life. When Willy encounters the Honduran teenage girl Sayra on the top of a box car, both of their lives change forever for both good and ill. Director Cary Fukunaga has made a film that is deeply moral and not at all political. When the story ends on the banks of the muddy Rio Grande, we know that the lives of Willy, Smiley and Sayra represent the many thousands of human beings who are trapped in the vortex of poverty and violence, and who remain sin nombre ("without name" or nameless) to most of history. In the words of one reviewer, "this film will break viewers' hearts and raise their social consciousness."