Directed by Gregory Nava (UK-USA 1983; 139 mins. in English, Quiché and Spanish with English subtitles)
Prior to taking the story of Tejano pop phenomenon Selena Quintanilla to the big screen - and making Jennifer Lopez a star out of it - Mexican-American filmmaker Gregory Nava gave us this 1983 masterpiece about two indigenous teenagers (Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez and David Villalpando) who flee their home for The United States during the horrors of the Guatemalan Civil War. The film, gorgeously shot and split into three acts, first captures the life of Enrique and Rosa - siblings in a Guatemalan village where they are subject to harsh labor and live under the threat of persecution. After their father is murdered for attempting to start a labor union, the pair escape Guatemala to meet a Mexican coyote. They endure a series of horrific events through Mexico and to the U.S. border. Enrique and Rosa finally arrive in the US ("El Norte"), only to find that life is not as perfect as the American dream promised. Rosa says to Enrique, "In our own land, we have no home. They want to kill us. ... In Mexico, there is only poverty. We can't make a home there either. And here in the north, we aren't accepted. When will we find a home, Enrique? Maybe when we die, we'll find a home." In 1995, twelve years after his original release, this transcendent film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry. Today, Rosa and Enrique’s harrowing journey is as relevant as it could ever be.
El Norte can be viewed on Amazon Prime and HBO.