The Golden Dream

The Golden Dream movie poster (La jaula de oro)

The Golden Dream poster (La jaula de oro)

While there have been quite a few films about the long and perilous expedition that migrating illegally to the US is, The Golden Dream (La Jaula de Oro) certainly hits our screens at the right time, the current migrating situation in Europe – mostly Iraqis, Syrians, Africans fleeing their respective countries for Germany, France, Spain and the UK. – making it a topical, global symbolic work.

Diego Quemada-Díez’s movie follows a small group of Guatemalan and Mexican teenagers as they attempt to make it to the Los Angeles. Those who already watched features and documentaries such as Sin Nombre, Who Is Dayani Cristal, Los Ángeles and Purgatorio might found themselves in familiar territory: from riding the beast (the trains) to dealing with corrupt cops, local gangs and crossing the border, most of the sequences presented here have been seen in other works. What however makes the difference here is how Mr.  Quemada-Díez manages to make us experience their expedition, mostly by creating a strong attachment between the audience and his characters.

What I found striking is the way the movie naturally unveils to grab our guts. Everything starts on quite a light, hopeful note, the interaction between the kids creating some amusing moments – most noticeable is probably Juan (Brandon López) and the way he treats one of his traveling fellows, the Indian Chauk (Rodolfo Domínguez). Of course, there is also a girl in the group (Sara – Karen Martinez), which spices things up, creating jealousy and tension. As the movie advances, things however slowly turn bitter as some of these characters cannot survive the roadblocks life sent their way. I won’t get into details here but every time something happens, we are left under shock, Mr. Quemada-Díez’s script being relentless in its depiction of the dangers preying cowardly on migrants.

But the movie doesn’t stop there, also taking a jab at the dream itself which might not be as golden as migrants assumed. Not only do we see that the US might be as treacherous as the other side of the border, but also that starting a new life might not be that easy either. Along the dangers of the road, this shattered vision of the American dream reminded me of something important the documentary Purgatorio was touching, suggesting that if all the energy people were putting into migrating was instead used to fix their country, things might be way better back home … but that’s another story.

Getting back to our subject, if the movie is able to develop such a strong bound with its spectators, it’s not only because of its script but also thanks to the talented young actors’ performances which are raw, natural, avoiding the traps of melodrama. The beautiful photography also supports the odyssey visually, offering some rare moments of beauty whether the kids are sitting on top a train or walking through the forest. While these sequences pay homage to nature, they more importantly allow both the characters and us to breathe for a while before something else happens.

The Golden Dream ends on an ambiguous note, implying that coming to the US might not have been worth the trip but also allowing at least one of the characters to realize his dream, seeing the snow, which is used as a metaphor. What is sure is that Mr. Quemada-Díez’s created a harsh, heartbreaking and haunting work that will leave you scars.

Director: Diego Quemada-Díez – Actors: Brandon López, Rodolfo Dominguez – Running Time: 1:50 – Year: 2015 – Country: Mexico
Click here to watch the The Golden Dream trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.