Judge Joel Pearce charges more than $50.
The dark side of the American Dream.
Recently, I reviewed The Visitor for the site. It offered a hopeful and positive view of American immigration, and at people who were sent from the country who should have been allowed to stay. Sangre de mi Sangre is the antithesis of that film, a look at the seedy underbelly of illegal immigration. It's an impressively crafted film, though it won't leave anyone with a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola) is a young Mexican boy who desperately wants to come to America, find his father, and start a better life. On the illegal truck taking him to New York, he meets Juan (Armando Hernandez), who steals his identity. Juan befriends Pedro's father, and makes plans to steal his money. Meanwhile, Pedro is left homeless in a new world, unable to speak English and desperately searching for his father.
Without question, the most impressive aspect of Sangre de mi Sangre is its cinematography. It creates a cruel cesspool of the underbelly of New York, using a muted color palette, skillful handheld photography and harsh lighting. Every moment of the film is highly stylized, though the camera movement never indicates a cinema verite style. Instead, we are placed in the perspective of a voyeur, looking in on this dismal, gruesome life. It's often an uncomfortable film to watch, since there are few warm moments to be had in this filthy neighborhood.
Indeed, Pedro is the only real bright light throughout the film. We watch in horror as he is quickly corrupted by the world around him, from the friend that betrays him, the whore who agrees to show him around (for a price), and the various hustlers who are willing to take advantage of him for a few bucks. It's a world where everything is cheap but nothing is free, and the whole economy is built on the backs of illegal immigrants who can't get any kind of protection from the law. It makes for a fascinating analysis of illegal immigration, because we feel for kids like Pedro. At the same time, it's clear that the influx of these people is creating a culture of violence, even the seemingly harmless ones. As well, cities like New York probably couldn't operate without illegal low wage workers. The restaurants and construction companies in neighborhoods like this would fall apart.
Without question, Sangre de mi Sangre isn't for everyone. It's a tough film to watch, and its grit will turn a lot of viewers off. As well, it has an unusual pace. While there are a few moments that burst into action and violence, there are also lengthy conversations that would be a better fit in an arthouse film. It isn't a thriller, as promised on the box. Instead, it plays more like a tough morality tale. Still, for those with the stomach for it, Sangre de mi Sangre certainly offers a unique view of the American dream—one that refuses to be ignored or passed by.
The DVD is a mix of good and bad. On the most part, the video transfer is quite good. It shows strong detail and an appropriately muted color mix, though the black levels are a bit excessive at times. Quite a few details get lost in the shadows during dark sequences, which comprise much of the film. The sound is better, featuring clear separation and good use of all channels. The dialogue is easy to hear, and the subtitles are translated well, though I suspect that many nuances are lost in the translation. There aren't any extras on the disc, though, which I would have expected given the care that's obviously been put into the film itself.
While I'm disappointed by the lack of extras on the disc, Sangre de mi Sangre is a hard-hitting film that refuses to be a typical portrayal of the immigrant experience, with a presentation that is both impressive and uncompromising. For those with the stomach for its ugly world, it comes highly recommended. For everyone else, The Visitor is probably a safer choice.
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