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New Release Review - The Golden Dream

A group of young Guatemalans attempts to illegally enter the United States.

Directed by: Diego Quemada-Díez
Starring: Brandon López, Rodolfo Domínguez, Karen Martínez, Carlos Chajon, Héctor Tahuite



Guatemalan teenager Sara (Martínez) crops her hair and straps down her breasts, attempting to pass herself off as a boy, before meeting her friends, Juan (López) and Samuel (Chajon). Together, they set off for the Mexican border, the first leg of a journey to illegally cross into the United States. Along the way, they encounter Chauk (Domínguez), an indigenous native with no Spanish. Sara befriends Chauk and invites him to accompany them, but Juan is unhappy with the arrangement. As their fraught quest progresses, however, the teenagers realise they will have to rely on each other if they are to make it.
The Spanish language title of former cameraman Diego Quemada-Díaz's directorial debut, La Jaulo de Oro, translates to English not as The Golden Dream, but as The Golden Cage, a more cynical, yet perhaps more apt, title. It's also the title of a popular Mexican song that inspired a 1987 film of the same name, but this isn't a remake of the earlier film. While the 1987 movie dealt with a Mexican family living in the US who decide to return to their native land, having grown tired of American life, here it's just the opposite, though we're left to ponder if, in its own way, Quemada-Díaz's film might serve as an unofficial prequel.
The topic of illegal Latin American immigration to the US has been covered recently in movies as diverse as the gritty drama Sin Nombre, the sci-fi allegory Monsters and even the grindhouse pastiche Machete. Immigrants, illegal or not, often find themselves society's scapegoats; "They have nothing to contribute," is usually the argument put forward by right wing politicians. Witnessing the hardships the young protagonists of The Golden Dream are willing to put themselves through in order to achieve their dream makes you wonder if they aren't far better equipped to benefit a developed society than those who grew up in its comforted walls.
Though the characters do indeed go through seven hells, the movie never wallows in tragedy, as we see the journey through the protagonist's young, naive eyes. The horrors are merely suggestive, and never occur onscreen, but we've all read enough shocking reports about life in Central America to put two and two together. We know exactly what the answer to that simple equation amounts to, even if our young heroes don't, or simply refuse to dwell on its details.
The young cast is impressive, world weary yet wondersome, like the title characters of William Wellman's Wild Boys of the Road, and the language barrier created by the introduction of Chauk means much of the film plays in silence. We're left to read the faces of our young adventurers, mentally gauging their chances of survival by how embittered with and hardened to life they appear. Quemada-Díaz gets us rooting for his teens as they chase their dream, even if we know it's ultimately not what they might have imagined for themselves.
7/10


Eric Hillis

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