El Norte (1983) — Guatemala
By Dan Clendenin
This movie is thirty years old, but its subject matter is even more important today than it was when it was made. In the little Guatemalan village of San Pedro, the military seizes the land of the Mayan peasants and terrorizes the villagers. They resent being treated as inferior laborers, but their efforts at resistance fail. The only way to survive seems to be to go "el norte," so this is what the teenagers Enrique and his sister Rosa do. After all, they've read the magazine "Good Housekeeping" for ten years, so they know just how wonderful life in America will be. Well, maybe not, for dreams and reality are not the same thing. The trek to Los Angeles by these undocumented immigrants is filled with humor and tragedy. The film brings to mind the ancient Hebrew commandment in Exodus 22:21: "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt," not to mention contemporary political debates about what the US should do with its 12 million "illegal immigrants." In Spanish, Mayan, and English.