Sin Nombre (2009 film)

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Sin Nombre
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCary Joji Fukunaga
Produced byAmy Kaufman
Written byCary Joji Fukunaga
StarringEdgar Flores
Kristyan Ferrer
Paulina Gaitán
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
CinematographyAdriano Goldman
Edited byLuis Carballar
Craig McKay
Distributed byFocus Features
Release date
  • January 18, 2009 (2009-01-18) (Sundance)
  • March 20, 2009 (2009-03-20) (United States)
  • May 15, 2009 (2009-05-15) (Mexico)
Running time
96 minutes
United States
Box office$7 million[1]

Sin Nombre (English: "Nameless") is a 2009 Mexican-American adventure thriller film written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, about a Honduran girl trying to immigrate to the United States, and a boy caught up in the violence of gang life.

Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal were executive producers on the Spanish-language film. Sin Nombre won awards for directing and cinematography at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.


Willy, nicknamed El Casper, is a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang and lives in Tapachula, a Mexican town near the border with Guatemala. He introduces a young boy into his gang, and the boy is given the nickname Smiley after a violent initiation. Casper later helps Smiley to complete this initiation by helping him execute a rival gang-member.

Casper is romantically involved with a girl, Martha Marlen. Fearing for the girl's safety, he keeps the relationship a secret from his gang, but his double life causes his gang to doubt his loyalty. When Martha follows Casper to a gathering of his gang, the gang leader, Lil Mago, escorts her out, despite Casper's misgivings. Mago attempts to rape Martha and accidentally kills her. Later, he blithely tells Casper that he will find another girl.

Shortly afterward, Mago brings Casper and Smiley to La Bombilla, a location along the train tracks where potential illegal immigrants stow away on passing trains on their way to the United States. Among the immigrants is a Honduran family introduced earlier consisting of the teenage girl Sayra, her father, and her uncle, who are on their way to relatives in New Jersey. Lil Mago, Casper, and Smiley rob the passengers for any money they have until Lil Mago spots Sayra and attempts to rape her. Casper intervenes, killing Mago and then sending Smiley off.

Smiley goes back to the gang and reports about Mago's death. The new gang leader, El Sol, accuses Smiley of collusion, to which Smiley timidly protests and begs to be sent to kill Casper to prove his loyalty. El Sol agrees and Smiley travels north to track down Casper. On the train, the still distraught Casper is avoided by other passengers.

When some try to throw him off the train, Sayra warns Casper and keeps on approaching him, despite her father's warnings. Casper's knowledge from previously smuggling gang members and avoiding the police proves useful, as he eludes his pursuers. He is finally accepted by Sayra's family but decides to leave the train while the others are sleeping. Unbeknownst to Casper, Sayra follows him off the train. Meanwhile, her father and uncle decide to continue the journey.

Traveling north on a car transport organized by a friend of Casper, Casper and Sayra barely escape a trap laid for them and enter an immigrant shelter, where Sayra sees a familiar face. She is informed that her father has died and her uncle has been caught. In disbelief, she rushes off to cry at the chapel, where Casper comforts her. They reach a river that constitutes the border to the United States. A coyote agrees to take them across one by one.

Casper pays the man with his camera containing the cherished pictures of his murdered girlfriend and insists that Sayra go first. When she is halfway across, the gang appears and begins to chase Casper. Casper flees the pursuing gang but runs into Smiley, who shoots him once, then slowly two more times, the last of which is in the head. This allows time for the others to catch up. They then all proceed to empty their magazines into Casper in an execution-style killing, while Sayra struggles to hold on to the raft and screams in horror.

The closing scenes show Sayra phoning her father's new family from outside an American mall, her uncle setting off on another attempt to cross the border, and Smiley getting his lip tattooed as a sign of his loyalty to the gang.



The film was mostly shot in Mexico City. Locations were found there resembling as closely as possible Tegucigalpa and the train station in Tapachula.[3]

The film was also shot in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico. Several of the extras used in the film were actual migrants. Fukunaga said of working with them, "I didn't have to tell them anything — they know how to sit on top of a train."[4]

According to IMDB, "Cary Fukunaga spent two years researching the film, spending time with people on the trains and with gangsters in Central America. He also used two gang members to script edit making the slang and language as up to date and realistic as possible."


The film currently holds an 88% "fresh" rating on the review website Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "Part harrowing immigration tale, part gangster story, this debut by writer/director Cary Fukunaga is sensitive, insightful and deeply authentic."[5] On Metacritic, the film has a 77/100 rating, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]


Award Category Recipient(s) Outcome
Austin Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
British Independent Film Awards 2009 Best Foreign Film Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Most Promising Filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
Deauville American Film Festival Jury Prize (tied) Won
EDA [Alliance of Women Film Journalists] Award Best Non-English-Language Film Nominated
2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival Skillset New Directors Award Cary Joji Fukunaga Won
Indiana Film Journalists Association Award Best Foreign Language Film Won
Spirit Awards
Best Feature Nominated
Best Director Cary Joji Fukunaga Nominated
Best Cinematography Adriano Goldman Nominated
2009 Sundance Film Festival Awards (U.S. Dramatic Competition)
Directing Award Cary Joji Fukunaga Won
Excellence in Cinematography Adriano Goldman Won
2009 Stockholm International Film Festival Awards
Best First Feature Won
Best Actor Edgar Flores Won
FIPRESCI International Film Critics Prize for Best Film Won
St. Louis Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sin Nombre (2009) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  2. ^ Jiménez has two roles.
  3. ^ DVD commentary with Fukunaga and producer Amy Kaufman.
  4. ^ Interview with Cary Joji Fukunaga in Socialist Review
  5. ^ Sin Nombre at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ Sin Nombre at Metacritic

External links[edit]