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El Norte (1983)

R | | Drama | 27 January 1984 (USA)
1:32 | Trailer

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Peasants escaping mindless labor and a murderous Guatemalan government head to America in hopes for something better.



Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ernesto Gómez Cruz ...
Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez ...
Alicia del Lago ...
Jose Martin Ruano ...
Stella Quan ...
Heraclio Zepeda ...
Pedro (as Eraclio Zapeda)
Emilio Gomez Ozuna ...
Daniel Lemus Valenzuela ...
Rodrigo Puebla ...
El Puma the Soldier
Yosahandi Navarrete Quan ...
Josefita's Daughter
Rodolfo De Alexandre ...
Emilio Del Haro ...
Truck Driver
Jorge Moreno ...
Old Man on Bus


Mayan Indian peasants, tired of being thought of as nothing more than "brazos fuertes" ("strong arms", i.e., manual laborers) and organizing in an effort to improve their lot in life, are discovered by the Guatemalan army. After the army destroys their village and family, a brother and sister, teenagers who just barely escaped the massacre, decide they must flee to "El Norte" ("the North", i.e., the USA). After receiving clandestine help from friends and humorous advice from a veteran immigrant on strategies for traveling through Mexico, they make their way by truck, bus and other means to Los Angeles, where they try to make a new life as young, and undocumented immigrants. Written by Ed Cannon <ecannon@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The magical film that reveals the world between the dream and the reality




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

27 January 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Au nord le paradis  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1995. See more »


In the final scenes with Enrique on the construction site, the foreman is seen watching Enrique. In a medium shot, he is carrying a rule or spirit level in his left hand as he looks at Enrique. In the next shot, with Enrique in the foreground, the foreman is empty handed. See more »


Border patrol officer 1: [to Enrique and Rosa in Spanish] Do you know how to read and write?
Rosa Xuncax: [to Enrique in Mayan] Why does he want to know that?
Enrique Xuncax: [to Rosa in Mayan] I don't know, but I think it's a trick. We'd better lie.
Border patrol officer 2: What are they saying?
Border patrol officer 1: I don't know. They're not speaking Spanish. They must be speaking some kind of Indian language.
Border patrol officer 2: Well, what the fuck good are you?
Enrique Xuncax: [to the officer in Spanish] No, we can't read or write.
Border patrol officer 1: They don't know how to read and write.
Border patrol officer 2: Well, that's some great system you got there.
Border patrol officer 1: Okay.
See more »


by Domenico Modugno
Performed by Enzo Gagliardi
See more »

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User Reviews

An important portrayal of immigrant life
8 October 1999 | by (Flagstaff, Arizona) – See all my reviews

I first saw this movie in 1989 or so and, being in high school and rather naive at the time, was blown away by unromantic portrayal of the lives of two Guatemalan refugees living as illegal immigrants in California. I still find it a moving film.

Siblings Arturo and Rosa flee their mountain village after their father is killed and trek across Mexico with dreams of living in the United States -- "El Norte." The story is sprinkled with humor, but the overall theme is tragedy. The political overtones are forceful as well; the course of one's life depends more on where one was born than how resourceful one is. This idea is explored in the contrast between the situations faced by the refugees and those of Americans they encounter. Arturo's struggle to find work is perilous, and demands huge sacrifices.

Thankfully, the movie doesn't portray its subject simplistically. There are several sympathetic American characters and some unsympathetic non-Americans. However, the film is ultimately critical of America, simply because Americans have so much and give so little of it to their closest neighbours. More than that, Americans are woefully unaware of the circumstances that many of those living within their country face. El Norte is an important film because it has the ability to change this.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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DVD of El Norte coming Elnortefan
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