Sin Nombre (Spanish)

I have very little to complain about with regards to my upbringing (other than having very little to complain about). My parents are/were supportive. I have never been left in need of food. Why am I telling you this? Because when I watch films like Sin Nombre, I become simultaneously ashamed and unbelievably grateful I didn’t have to struggle like most immigrants coming to the United States from Mexico and other Latin American countries.


Sin Nombre follows two storylines that eventually become one. First, we have Willy, or “El Casper” (Edgar Flores), who is a gang member that begins to see the real face of gang violence and tries to flee. Second, we have the young, innocent Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), who has reunited with her father to make the trek from Honduras to New Jersey and start a new, better life in the USA.

Sin Nombre is unfiltered, raw and gritty. There is no sugarcoating going on here. We see the masked brutality of gang life as Willy sees how his “brothers” go from ardently loyal to murderous with blind rage at the drop of a hat. As he brings in a young boy – no more than ten – we see how all encompassing the gangs are in these remote Mexican villages. We see Willy’s softer side with his interaction with Martha Marlene (Diana Garcia), his girlfriend, but being in a homicidal gang seems to be like superhero work: the people you love are most at risk.

Meanwhile, Sayra is skirting the boundaries of deportation and freedom for almost the entire film. She, along with her uncle and previously non-existent father, are moving beyond not one, but two borders illegally. Gaitan does an excellent job showing Sayra’s innocence, but also portraying her resolute ideals to stick with family and make it to America.

The film is split about halfway between the build-up and the train ride through Mexico – by train ride, I mean sitting on top and fleeing when seeing border patrol. As mentioned, the struggles of these immigrants, as well as the sheer numbers of people, are portrayed with raw, stark visuals about the unglamorous life. We see how some towns are receptive to the travelers, and some not so much. We see how they treat each other and how they react to authorities – hint: look out for number one.


With beautiful and intense visuals, Sin Nombre has you on the edge of your seat. The acting is well done and mostly by young adults and children, particularly Flores and Gaitan who have a good relationship. It’s a great look into the lives of immigrants with a giant dose of reality to the situation (“not half of these people will make it”). I strongly suggest a viewing.

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