People talk about ‘the American Dream’ like it is the most sought-after of ambitions. Hundreds and thousands of people from South America try to gain passage to the United States every year, in the hope of a better life. But the 2013 drama from Diego Quemada-Díez, which was screened in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section at the Cannes Film Festival, shows the darker side to illegal immigration.
The Golden Dream (Spanish: La Juala de Oro) follows three young teenagers – Juan, his girlfriend Sara (posing as a boy) and their friend Samuel – who decide to take the dangerous journey from poverty-stricken Guatemala to find a life in the United States. Along the way, they meet a Tzotli native called Chauk, who befriends Sara and despite Juan’s reservations, joins them on the journey, but Chauk’s blooming friendship with Sara is the least of Juan’s problems as they venture towards the border.
First of all, a problem lies with the receptiveness of the troubles faced by the youngsters, as it feels like they are on a never-ending loop. They proceed, they face an obstacle before dusting themselves off and continuing with another strike against them. This troubled cycle hammers in the logical yet pessimistic idea that their dream will only end up in tatters, leaving an unsettling feeling throughout the 102 minutes running time.
The Golden Dream doesn’t cushion the harsh reality faced by illegal immigrants. Regardless of the age of the protagonists and as they face migration officials and drug traffickers, it becomes evident that the desperate actions seen on-screen speak louder than words, as demonstrated in the shocking and humiliating outing of Sara as a girl, as well as a tense confrontation involving Juan and Chauk.
However, the film benefits from Quemada-Díez’s simple direction, which makes the most of the isolated landscapes and the destitute villages and towns of rural South America, as well as its young ensemble cast, whose relative unfamiliarity with being in a feature film is reflected in their naivety of what lies ahead of them. They are essentially going into the unknown to reach the unknown and the sense of uncertainty mystifies the youngsters’ journey.
The Golden Dream is a bleak, occasionally harrowing but powerful drama. It is not the most uplifting of films but one that doesn’t shy away from the truth.
The Golden Dream is out in UK cinemas on Friday 27th June.
Director: Diego Quemada-Díez
Writers: Diego Quemada-Díez, Gibrán Portela, 2 more credits »
Stars: Brandon López, Rodolfo Domínguez, Karen Martínez
Runtime: 108 min
Country: Guatemala, Spain, Mexico