By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on November 28, 2009)
El Norte – Criterion Collection DVD (2 discs)
Gregory Nava’s portrait of Guatemalan siblings who make their way to the U.S. after their father is killed by a government death squad will stay with you after credits roll. The two leads deliver naturalistic performances as a brother and sister who maintain optimism, despite fate and circumstance thwarting them at every turn. Claustrophobes be warned: a harrowing scene featuring an encounter with a rat colony during an underground border crossing is nightmare fuel. Do not expect a Hollywood ending; this is an unblinking look at the shameful exploitation of undocumented workers. Criterion’s sparkling transfer is a world of improvement over the previous PAL editions.