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Crossing borders with 'Sin Nombre'
In the shattered calm of the Mexican night, sitting atop a railroad tanker car, Cary Joji Fukunaga didn't yet know that a man was being murdered. But he'd heard the screams, gunshots and shouts in Spanish of "Bandits!" and he was bracing to make a run for it, if need be. ¶ It was summer 2005, and Fukunaga was researching the screenplay for his first feature film, "Sin Nombre," the harrowing but uplifting saga of a Honduran girl and a Mexican ex-gang banger trying to train-hop illegally into the United States. ¶ Most aspiring auteurs probably would've drafted that story while safely ensconced in their Brooklyn brownstone or Santa Monica dingbat. But Fukunaga, a 31-year-old Oakland native who writes and directs movies as if he were practicing an extreme sport (he once dreamed of being a pro snowboarder) insisted on experiencing firsthand the hazards and terrors confronted by tens of thousands of economic refugees from south of the border every year. ¶ So he set off for southern Mexico to ride the rails for several weeks, braving foul weather, marauding thugs and the constant danger of falling off and being swept under the trains' limb-severing wheels. "It felt like being a hobo in the '30s," he says, hunching his slender, 6-foot-plus frame behind a metal desk in the NoHo offices of Focus Features. ¶ In the process, Fukunaga, who grew up in Northern California but has lived in New York for the last 7 1/2 years, has crafted a significant new addition to the growing corpus of movies dealing with the Latin American immigrant experience, including Gregory Nava's "El Norte" (1983), Joshua Marston's "Maria Full of Grace" (2004) and Patricia Riggen's 2008 film "La Misma Luna" ("Under the Same Moon").
By Reed Johnson reporting from new york > > >
March 8, 2009