Sin Nombre: A Shocking and Disquieting Tale of Courage, Love, and Hardship

By Veronica Houser

On the eve of Friday, October 2, 2009, I was awarded the privilege of attending the Ellensburg Film Festival’s screening of Sin Nombre, a story which depicts the separate lives of a Mexican boy and a Honduran girl. It illustrates how their lives eventually intertwine. As the lights died and the movie began to roll, the air turned electric with the anticipation of the 88 film enthusiasts that nearly filled Central Washington University’s Music Recital Hall.

The central hero, Willy, is a friend, a lover and also a member of a dangerous street gang. His life revolves around the protection and sanctity that this brotherhood appears to offer him. But when kinship turns to betrayal and violence, in addition to the murder of Willy’s beloved girlfriend, our protagonist begins to realize that he must attempt to break away from the family that has begun to become his prison. In an attempt to loosen the chains that bind him, Willy defends the life and chastity of Sayra, whom the gang’s leader attempts to victimize. When the gang discovers that their leader has been murdered, Willy’s name appears at the top of their hit list. Forced to remain aboard the train that is illegally transporting Sayra and her family to the border, Willy and the girl are thrust into a relationship of hardship, trust, and love.

After nearly two hours of grueling emotional tension and cinematic awe, I seized the opportunity to interview fellow movie-goers Dave Schott and Aaron Siebol to learn what the general audience thought of the film. In the beginning, both men expressed mutual opinions, stating, “it was an excellent movie, [we] would definitely recommend it.” However, opinions of the overall film clearly differed; Mr. Siebol said that overall, “I didn’t love it. I thought it was a good portrayal of the worries and stresses of life in Mexico, but I really wasn’t convinced with the love story [between Sayra and Willy]. It seemed to me like [the actors] were kind of trying to force it.” Contrary to this opinion, Mr. Schott rebutted, “I was willing to believe it. [Sayra] obviously had a disconnection with her own family. She probably loved [Willy] because he saved her, and I think that we just can’t appreciate how much that meant to her.” Schott also said he thought the movie was “very powerful” and “accurately highlights the troubles and poverty occurring in Mexico.”

I was curious as to why Willy would have remained in a gang that was both his prison and his freedom, so I asked a few more questions and received some very insightful answers. Audience members astutely declared that poverty is pushing the immigration movement, as well as causing the necessity for gangs. For many, these gangs serve as their sole social outlet, as well as providing a haven of protection for a population unable to obtain jobs.

I am quite excited for the remainder of the festival, as are the other viewers of Sin Nombre. When prompted, I discovered that the most anticipated films are “World’s Greatest Dad,“Back to the Garden,” and “Monster Camp.” However, the winner by far is “Pirate for the Sea”; almost everyone I talked to expressed extreme interest in this movie. I plan on attending several more movies and hope to meet many more guests of the Festival.


Ellensburg Film Festival Opens With Lights, Camera, Action!

ELLENSBURG, Wash.- The Fifth Annual Ellensburg Film Festival began with its opening press conference for media sources at 3:00p.m. today in Gallery One. Sarah Haven, vice president of the Festival, announced the beginning of the festivities tonight at 7:00p.m. in the Central Washington University’s Music Recital Hall where the films Endless Tunnel and Sin Nombre will be screened. Haven also introduced musician Jon Davidson, who will be performing tomorrow night at the EFF’s Bar Noir. This event will take place from 9:00p.m until 2:00am in the main gallery at the EFF headquarters, located at 408 N. Pearl Street in downtown Ellensburg, Washington. This evening, everyone is invited to attend the Opening Gala and Awards Ceremony, also located at Gallery One at 9:00pm to 2:00am. As an extra bonus this year, the event will also feature the live music by Argus, who will open for Star Anna and The Laughing Dogs. This is the first opportunity to hear the awards for best documentary, best short film, best feature and the Best of Fest announced. It will also be an excellent chance to mingle with visiting film-makers and other film enthusiasts.

The Festival is hoping to see an expansion in attendance of last year’s record of over 2,000 film-goers. A Premiere Pass is available for $50.00; this package includes priority seating at every film, as well as admission to all other events throughout the weekend plus an EFF t-shirt. There is a special Six-Tix Deal which provides admission for six choice films for $30.00. Regular admission is $6.00 and there is a special discount for students for $3.00 with student ID.

Secretary Amy Davison expressed her enthusiasm for the festival by stating, “I am excited for the full weekend we have ahead of us. We have some spectacular films and great entertainment. I’d also like to extend a special thank-you to all of our sponsors; this just wouldn’t be possible without them.”

The festival will continue throughout the weekend until Sunday night, October 4, 2009, with all screenings taking place on Central Washington University campus. The EFF headquarters, located at Gallery One will be open throughout the weekend for anyone with questions.

This event is sponsored by: Laughing Horse Arts Foundation, Gallery One Visual Arts Center, IndieFlix, TLS Design Studio, Ellensburg Arts Commission, Withoutabox, Central Washington University Diversity Education Center, Iron Horse Brewery, Sage Cliffe, Rufus Tech, Jerrol’s Book & Supply Co., D&M Coffee, Lily’s Cantina, Bluestone Academy, and Wahluke heights Orchards.

Media Contact: Tami Sawyer, EFF Public Relations & Marketing,