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Sin Nombre (2009)
"Sin nombre" (original title)

R  |   |  Adventure, Crime, Drama  |  17 April 2009 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 23,764 users   Metascore: 77/100
Reviews: 72 user | 153 critic | 22 from Metacritic.com

A Honduran young girl and a Mexican gangster are united in a journey across the American border.


(as Cary Jôji Fukunaga)
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14 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marco Antonio Aguirre ...
Big Lips
Leonardo Alonso ...
Policía Judicial
Karla Cecilia Alvarado ...
Juan Pablo Arias Barrón ...
Niño #3
Rosalba Belén Barrón ...
Niño #2
Felipe Castro ...
Marero (as Sixto Felipe Castro)
Rosalba Quintana Cruz ...
Tierra Blanca Mujer
Marcela Feregrino ...
El Smiley (as Kristian Ferrer)
El Sipe
Ariel Galvan ...
Migrante #1
Gabriela Garibaldi ...


Honduran teenager Sayra reunites with her father, an opportunity for her to potentially realize her dream of a life in the U.S. Moving to Mexico is the first step in a fateful journey of unexpected events. Written by IMDb Editors

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The greatest sin of all is risking nothing.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, language and some sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

17 April 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sin Nombre  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$81,446 (USA) (20 March 2009)


$2,534,351 (USA) (10 July 2009)

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title "Sin Nombre" translates as "without a name." See more »


Towards the end of the film, the city labeled as "Reynosa, Tamaulipas" is actually "Monterrey, Nuevo Leon." See more »


Sayra: Back home, my friend Clarissa made me see this crazy neighbor, Doña Eleanor, you know, like witchcraft? She smoked this puro, then told me with her freaky voice that I'd make it to the U.S. but not in God's hand, perhaps in the Devil's.
See more »


Referenced in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.8 (2011) See more »


Composed by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
From the Motion Picture Score of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
(Film Festival prints only)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A film of heartbreaking sadness but also one of joy and redemption
26 April 2009 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

In Sin Nombre, first-time writer-director 31-year-old Cary Joji Fukanaga has crafted a uniquely moving film experience that dramatizes with authenticity the drive among the poor in Latin America to pull up roots and seek a better life in the U.S. Transcending genres and styles, Sin Nombre, translated "without a name", is performed by mostly non-professional local actors whose weathered faces mirror the harsh realities of their life. The film is shot by cinematographer Adriano Goldman with 35mm film rather than digital-video which is today's norm and avoids stylistic clichés such as hand-held cameras and dizzier-than-thou fast cutting.

Opening in Tapachula in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico with a saturated color palette of deep red and orange, the trajectory of this low-budget, but beautifully shot thriller follows two parallel threads that meet in the middle. It begins with the initiation of a new member into the Mara Salvatrucha gang, in this case, a twelve year old boy called Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) who has been recruited into the gang by young Willy aka Casper (Edgar Flores). Smiley must endure a gang ritual where he is thrown to the ground and kicked and beaten thirteen times to prove his toughness. As if that is not enough, the pre-teen is then forced to shoot a prisoner from the Chavalas, a rival gang.

Breaking the rules, Willy takes Smiley with him to meet his secret girlfriend Martha Marlene (Diana Garcia) but the clandestine meeting ends when sadistic gang leader, Lil' Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) finds out about it and tries to rape her with tragic consequences. In the second thread, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a Honduran teenager is reunited with her father and decides to join him and her uncle on a perilous journey to New Jersey to meet other family members. In a powerful scene, they join other immigrants at a train crossing and then climb to the top of the railroad car of a passing train to begin the journey. One of the many dangers they face is that of being robbed by gangs or other poor Latinos who think they must have huge sums of money.

In this case, the robbers are Casper and Smiley who have been ordered to join Lil' Mago. When the leader tries to rape Sayra, however, Casper takes action which ensures that his future and that of Sayra will be inextricably linked. To reach the U.S., Sayra and Willy, now drawn together out of mutual need and attraction, have to overcome the network of covert operatives employed by the Mara gang, the danger of the border patrols, and the ordinary Mexicans who throw rocks at them and put their journey in peril. Powerful performances by Gaitan and Flores create an electric chemistry that wraps our hearts around their struggle to find release from their troubled past.

Winner of awards for directing and cinematography at Sundance, Sin Nombre has been attacked by some critics because it is a story about the truth of poor people's lives wrapped in a conventional framework. In my view, that is precisely what gives the film its strength. It is not an easy task for any immigrant who wants to make it to America, and Sin Nombre alerts us to the dangers as well as the opportunities. It succeeds not only as education but as theater, allowing the viewer not only to understand the perils illegal immigrants face but to relate emotionally to them as human beings.

Fukanaga was not a criminal or an immigrant but knows full well that the common thread existing among all people is that of being able to dream of a new day for themselves and the people they love. He spent two years doing research among the Mara Salvatrucha gang based in Mexico and Los Angeles, and in riding on the top of freight cars with Honduran and Salvadorean immigrants headed towards the U.S. border. The result is both deeply moving in its poetry and off-putting in its violence, a film of heartbreaking sadness but also one of joy and redemption, one of the best so far of 2009.

38 of 45 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
The girl is an idiot. couldn't stand watching her. sophtwareslump
What was the deal with the girlfriend?? FredCDobbs
Awesome movie, but accents were off sarainunez
why did Sayra sniff him aghm
Good film, MS in Mexico brings it down though IMO. britzsv
A Mediocre Film killdobbs
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