Review: The Golden Dream

Film Title: The Golden Dream/La Jaula de Oro

Director: Diego Quemada-Diez

Starring: Carlos Chajon, Rodolfo Domínguez, Brandon López

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 108 min

Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 00:00

   

If you want screen teens to break your heart this summer, then give The Fault in Our Stars a miss in favour of this epic South American adventure.

Diego Quemada-Diez’s gripping debut feature opens as Sara, a Guatemalan teenager, cuts her hair and straps down her breasts. It’s a good call: sexual predators are just one of the many dangers she and her travelling companions Juan and Samuel will face along the long, precarious trek to the US border.

Not too far into a journey that will take them across Mexico, the trio encounter Chauk, a young Guatemalan Indian who speaks no Spanish. The other kids are marginalised and despised by many of the people they meet: police rob them, farmers shanghai them into hard labour; traffickers repeatedly target them for unspoken horrors. Chauk is marginalised even within the group.

The changing dynamics and alliances among the juvenile travellers provide a compelling emotional hook for an epic and fraught travelogue. Quemada-Diez, a former camera operator and protege of Ken Loach’s, spent years interviewing migrants to create a screenplay that chronicles collective experience just as effectively as a folk ballad.

The writer-director filmed The Golden Dream chronologically and as honestly as could be. The surprise and shock on the youngster’s faces is often authentic, as are the migrants and villagers they meet along the way. The young cast were rightly awarded a special ensemble prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Much of The Golden Dream is given over to rooftop train rides, endless horizons and dusty roads, all beautifully shot by María Secco. A clever, semi-improvised script never allows us forget that, even under such perilous circumstances, these are kids. They goof around. They pose at cutouts. They fancy one another.

We hope against hope for a happy outcome, every step of the way.