By Zack Haddad | January 26, 2007

2007 SUNDANCE DRAMATIC FEATURE COMPETITION! Illegal immigration has been a hot button issue over the past couple of years and “Padre Nuestro” capitalizes on this with a stylish, somewhat depressing film. New York can be quite a daunting place to someone who isn’t used to it, so it stands to reason that an illegal alien will have an even harder time adapting to the big city.

Pedro and Juan meet in the back of a truck that is transporting illegal-aliens into New York City from Mexico. Juan only looks out for himself and it is apparent when the film opens with him stealing a large amount of money from some thugs in Mexico. Pedro is going to New York to find his father who he has never met. When they finally arrive in New York, Pedro discovers that all the contents he need to find his father, including a letter from his dead mother are missing. Alone and not knowing a word of English, Pedro is thrust upon the mean streets of the city. Juan was the one who stole Pedro’s things and he find’s Pedro’s dad and claims he is Pedro. The film is interesting because it is both a Hispanic and an American film because it takes place in America obviously but the characters speak little English.

This is the first film from writer/director Christopher Zalla, and it is a well-crafted take on the seedy under-belly of America. I honestly can’t say I know too much about the whole illegal immigration thing, but to see border patrolmen smuggle aliens into the country really floored me. It could be fictional but it makes me wonder if things like this actually do happen (and how often).

The film was shot quite well and the acting was great all across the board. The story involved a unique perspective / add-on to the mistaken identity genre which is to be respected. I did have issues with the pacing (it seemed like it took way too long for any of the bigger plot points to develop) however the ending (of the “not everything is sunshine and daisies” variety) wound up being satisfying and approproate, allowing the entire film to come together.

It will be interesting to watch the career of this director unfold, particularly because of his strong start. Let’s just hope that he is able to tap into subject material as complex and complete as successfully next time.

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