• by Writer/Director Cary Joji Fukunaga
I would like to invite you to see my first feature film, Sin Nombre,
about to face the world on screens across the country. All filmmakers
will consider their films personal, and perhaps nothing is more personal
than the first one. This film is even more personal to me in that I
risked my neck to make it, literally.
I began working on this project in 2005, not long after my short film Victoria Para Chino (based on the tragedy in Victoria, Texas, where 19 immigrants died inside of a refrigerated trailer) received an Honorable Mention at the Sundance Film Festival. While researching the short, I had learned that thousands of Central American immigrants were crossing Mexico atop freight trains, facing a maelstrom of dangers, including bandits, gangs, corrupt police, and the constant threat of deportation back to their home countries. The images conjured up a post-industrial version of our own iconic Wild West, but instead of covered wagons it was a freight train, and instead of the classic Hollywood version of “the savages” it was marauding bandits and tattoo-covered gang members who seemed to have been pulled from general casting in Mad Max. And yet this wasn’t the Wild West; it was real and it was happening, is still happening, just south of our border. This was the story I wanted to tell.
I followed the first draft with two years of research in Mexico. I spent time with gang members in and out of prisons, interviewed immigrants from Nicaragua on up to the Texas border and, ultimately, traveled with hundreds of them from Tapachula in the south of Mexico to Orizaba, Veracruz. Together we experienced hunger, braved the weather and nights of hidden dangers, and grew to depend on one another. One particularly dark night in Chiapas our train was attacked by bandits; after several gunshots and screams of chaos, a Guatemalan immigrant lay dead—he did not want to give up the little money he had to make this journey.
In the scope of things, I only shared in these moments of danger briefly, while these immigrants had to continue facing this journey on their own. But what you’ll see onscreen in Sin Nombre is an homage to their true-life stories told from the perspectives of a young girl from Honduras, Sayra, on a journey to New Jersey with a father she hardly knows, and a young gang member, Casper, whose hope for a better life may be cut short by the gang that he once called his family. The two of them will change each other’s lives forever.
For you, the audience, I hope that Sin Nombre creates an experience that is both thrilling and emotional. I hope that you can walk out of the theater having seen through the eyes of these gang members and immigrants with a sense of connection that you wouldn’t have imagined possible. I also hope you just enjoy the film for simply being a good old-fashioned post-industrial Western tale of redemption..