• Criterion’s release of the landmark American independent El Norte (in both standard DVD and Blu-ray editions) is reminding critics not just of the film’s beauty and poignancy but of the subject matter’s sadly undiminished relevance. “Made in 1983 but unavailable on DVD until now, Gregory Nava’s El Norte was one of the first—and best—feature films to document the experience of illegal immigrants who cross the U.S. border,” explains the Miami Heralds Rene Rodriguez, who also praises Nava’s imagery, calling the film “beautifully shot with a combination of stark realism and a trace of magical fantasy.” In USA Today, Mike Clark agrees that the film is “still the definitive saga about illegal immigration.” And the Los Angeles Times devoted a feature to the release, which also marked the film’s twenty-fifth anniversary, calling it a testament to “the movie’s quality and enduring influence.”

    In the Austin American-Statesman, John DeFore writes: “It’s almost heartbreaking that the movie wasn’t readily available at the start of this country’s latest round of controversy over immigration . . . More than most films its age, El Norte continues to speak directly, and movingly, to our time.”

    Gregory Nava himself took to the airwaves to discuss the film’s continued importance. On BlogTalkRadio’s program Back by Midnight, he recounted how attacks against indigenous people continue to this day, referring to the violence the film’s Guatemalan protagonists suffer in their home country before taking off for the United States. Nava also recalled some tense moments during shooting in Mexico when their footage was held for ransom by masked gunmen, who he believes were sent by government authorities. “All this is documented in a short documentary on the Criterion disc,” Nava reminded listeners. “When I watched it myself, all these memories came back of how really frightening it all was.” You can listen to that interview here.

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