The Golden Dream

The Golden Dream ★★★★

Diego Quemada-Díez steps forward from being assistant to directors such as Ken Loach to introduce his debut film, showing us the perilous journey undertaken by South Americans who risk everything in the hope of reaching America. These types of film from the continent are nothing new, with Una Noche and Sin Nombre being two of the more recent films that spring to mind.

So what's the spin on the subject here? Why should we be interested in just more of the same? Well, similar to Loach, Quemada-Díez grounds himself in a naturalistic approach to draw out a powerful message, one that doesn't feel the need to evolve with forceful melodrama. At times it seems as if the actors are playing this for real such is the subdued style employed by the director.

We meet the group of three teenagers as they prepare to leave their slum town in Guatemala. Juan, Samuel and Sara, who shortens her hair and tapes up her chest in an attempt to look more masculine. They are soon joined on their travels by an indigenous Guatemalan, a Mayan Indian boy who speaks no Spanish. The goal is the same for everyone in the group, the American Dream or bust.

They are seen in almost constant motion throughout, be it riding the railroad, walking the tracks or evading capture from the immigration guards or local bandits. A whole sub-economy exists off the back of this constant migration that benefits those who offer honest work and others who manipulate and steal. The route is fraught with dangers both from external forces and others they travel with. Companionship is hard to find when everyone's life sits on a knife edge.

Quemada-Díez simplistic approach with these first time actors pays off handsomely. He captures some beautiful wide shots of the sun-kissed landscapes they pass through, offering a real counter balance to the horrors the group face on their trip. The last dialgoue free moments of this mood driven piece manages to encapsulate the reality of this experience for so many, a lingering atmosphere not easily shaken off over the credits.