Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1977. Filmhaus. Screenplay by Robert M. Young. Cinematography by Tom Hurwitz, Robert M. Young. Produced by Michael Hausman, Irwin Young. Music by Michael Martin Murphey. Production Design by Lilly Kilvert. Film Editing by Edward Beyer, Norman Buckley.
Like millions before and after him, Roberto has decided to leave Mexico and look for work in America, his wife having just given birth and he needing to help make a better life for her. He enters the country illegally, barely surviving border patrol only to find himself in the same dangerous and vulnerable position that other undocumented workers face. His family and old life well behind him, he starts up a new relationship and climbs the employment ladder before setbacks see him once again having to start the process all over again. This unglamorous look at the terrifying experiences of its characters does a terrific job of telling a familiar story without broadening its main characters into flat stereotypes. For those who find El Norte to be somewhat melodramatic, it also avoids sensationalism and tells its story simply and, as a result, is that much more devastating. Judgment is so easily cast by the audience on a corrupt system of labour and economics that director Robert M. Young knows well enough that he need not bother doing it for his viewers.