By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on November 28, 2009)
El Norte – Criterion Collection DVD (2 discs)
Gregory Nava’s affecting portrait of two Guatemalan siblings making their way to the U.S. after their activist father is killed by a government death squad will stay with you long after credits roll. The two leads give naturalistic, completely believable performances as the brother and sister whose desperate optimism never falters, despite fate and circumstance thwarting them at every turn. Don’t expect a Hollywood ending-this 1983 film is not easy to watch but thoroughly enlightening. Claustrophobic viewers should be forewarned: a harrowing scene featuring an encounter with a roving rat colony during an underground border crossing though an abandoned sewer might give you nightmares. Criterion’s sparkling transfer is a world of improvement over the previous PAL editions.