Four children walk on railroad tracks towards a dream. These three young Guatemalans cross Mexico northbound in the company of a native Mayan. Occasionally on foot, most frequently above train cars that seem exclusively to carry illegal immigrants heading to the United States. La Jaula de Oro (The Golden Dream), the feature debut of documentarian Diego Quemada-Díez, focuses a lens on their journey. Their fictional tale, both poetic and realistic, is based on real stories of diaspora.
La Jaula de Oro in a Nutshell
Juan (Brandon López) longs to be the classic gringo cowboy popularized by Hollywood. His only possession are a pair of leather boots. Sara (Karen Martínez), his girlfriend, is more grounded but determined to accompany him to the point of dressing like a man for the trip. Samuel (Carlos Chajón) is Juan’s friend and Sara’s possible brother (the film leaves this question open). He wants a better future than his present life as a landfill “diver”. Chauk (Rodolfo Domínguez), the friendly native stowaway who does not speak Spanish, dreams only of seeing snow fall. Together they trek through beautiful landscapes and crude obstacles. These include corrupt policemen, criminal cartels, border agents – in an odyssey worthy of Homer.
It’s implicit that not all those who make this journey arrive at their destination. An ecosystem – defined by the presence of the illegal aboard these trains – has developed parallel to the rails, full of both predators and entities who just want to lend a helping hand. The four adventurers exchange few words, but their feelings are clear at all times. This plot would’ve worked in silent films. Details like these give verisimilitude to the world that Quemada creates before our eyes like verses in a visual poem.
The film does not question the motivations that push these colleagues and millions of Latinos to take risks like these day after day in hope of a better life. Quemada is more interested in the relationship between his characters. The loss of their innocence, the meaning of their journey and the constant natural beauty that surrounds them. The Latino migration as a topic has been overused in movies, but La Jaula de Oro shows that any material can be reinvigorated with an original and intelligent vision.
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This review was first published on the Revista U website. Click here for the original article (in Spanish).
Movie title: The Golden Dream
Movie description: Diego Quemada-Díez's excellent feature film debut easily could've also worked as a silent movie.
Date published: 2014-04-14
Director(s): Diego Quemada-Díez
Actor(s): Brandon López, Karen Martínez, Carlos Chajón, Rodolfo Domínguez