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.