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Peter saw his first movie when he was just a little boy, and has never gotten over that experience.

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Sin Nombre--The New Western?

Posted July 21, 2009

Sin Nombre--The New Western? Image

Xan Brooks in The Guardian wrote a recent post, “In the hands of the devil,” that suggests “The western, it transpires, has not died out. It has simply changed shape, colour and compass point.”  He points to two recent films to make his point: Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River and Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre. Interestingly both films are about the unlawful crossing of borders: Frozen River about smuggling immigrants into New York via the Canadian border and Sin Nombre about the journey of Latin Americans into the United States. Of course, both directors readily acknowlege their debt to the Western. In fact, we ran a 5inFocus on Sin Nombre’s filmmakers love of that genre. But the Brooks' essay also highlights how these films are different than their Hollywood ancestors.

Hunt and Fukunaga's tales play out in a tangled, messy present, spotlighting a modern strain of frontier lawlessness and implicitly debunking the notion of America as a promised land of unbridled opportunity. They do not simply breathe new life into the genre. They may also have reclaimed it for a fresh generation of American pioneers.