Denis Villeneuve’s Mexico-set drug war movie Sicario reveals how narcotics smugglers tap into the routes used by illegal immigrants to enter the United States of America. Mexico is the hub through which hopefuls from Central American countries attempt to sneak into the US, and one of the most moving films on the subject reveals that the desperate risk-takers are often not older than teenagers.


Diego Quemada-Diez’s La Jaula de Oro (The Golden Cage) is a deeply emotional yet unsentimental account of four adolescents – three boys and a girl – who make an arduous journey from Guatemala to the USA through Mexico. The journey involves considerable peril. There is always a danger of being caught, all the money in the world is not enough to satisfy the touts, and the girl suffers horribly because of her gender, and yet the teenagers soldier on, knowing that there is nothing back home for them.

The observational camerawork allows the assured performances of the non-professional cast to shine through. There is plenty of quiet despair but no easy Hollywood-style bail-outs for the teenagers. Some of them eventually make it to the States, only to swell the vast ranks of undocumented immigrants who support the largest economy in the world from the bottom.