Long before Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre depicted the harrowing journey of Central American immigrants coming to the United States, a 1983 film by a US Latino filmmaker told the story of two teenage Guatemalan siblings escaping civil war with the American dream in their sights.
Gregory Nava’s El Norte is a pioneering piece of cinema that confronted US audiences with the reality of the undocumented struggle. It also evidenced stereotypes and misconceptions about indigenous people from Latin America.
Nava, a Chicano who grew up near the border between Tijuana and San Diego, went on to direct beloved Latino staples such as Mi Familia and Selena, but El Norte remains his most artistically daring effort due to the use of magical realism to enhance the powerful narrative.
The film was not only the first screenplay co-written by a US-born Latino to earn an Oscar nod, but it’s also the first American independent movie to receive an Academy Award nomination in that category. El Norte was also part of prestigious international festivals like Cannes and Telluride.
El Norte will screen on Monday, December 11 at 7:30 p.m. at The Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, as the final event in the From Latin America to Hollywood series. Director Gregory Nava, writer-producer Anna Thomas, and stars Zaide Silvia Gutierrez and David Villalpando will be in attendance for a Q&A to discuss their memories from the production and the film’s legacy.