El Norte

Rated 5.0

Gregory Nava’s 2006 Jennifer Lopez bomb Bordertown was so poorly conceived and executed, it’s almost startling to see his sure-handed direction on the 1983 near-masterpiece El Norte. The film tells the story of two poor Guatemalan siblings forced to flee their village after the slaying of their labor-leader father. The brother and sister journey north, suffering indignity and exploitation in their quest for American freedom and opportunity. First-time actors Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez and David Villalpando distinguish themselves as the siblings, never doing too much or too little. El Norte adroitly melds social realism, fantasy, old-fashioned epic storytelling, and a liberal, humanist, soap-opera aesthetic that dovetails nicely with the ascension of Obama.