Pedro Ultreras' brutal, uncompromising film 7 Soles (7 Suns), which depicts the plight of a group of migrants crossing the Sonoran desert is a must-see for all Americans if they want to understand the sheer horror some immigrants are willing to endure to come to this country.
In it, director Ultreras, a former reporter for outlets such as Telemundo and Univision, weaves together several true-life tales of migrants trying to make it to the relative safety of a Phoenix drop-house. I saw the film's Phoenix premiere on Thursday, which so packed the theater that I and others had to sit on the floor.
I didn't regret my seating, however. Often depictions of the plight of migrants are melodramatic and one-sided, but 7 Soles was none of that. In the film, the coyotes, as depicted by Gustavo Sánchez Parra and Phoenix's own Luis Avila are the personifications of thuggishness, selfishness and criminality. Throughout the film, there are murders, rapes, people left to die in the desert and very, very little redemption.
If you know Luis Avila, recognizable to many because of his activism locally and his theater work here (he's the director of the play The Tears of Lives, which I blogged about recently), you may be shocked by his portrayal of the coyote Gavilan. Avila beefed up for the role, and his success at making you believe he's capable of numerous, heinous acts, is a tribute to his acting chops.
The plot involves Parra's coyote character Negro, and Avila's character Gavilan transporting a group of 15 men, women and children across the border. Problem is, their route is being closely watched by the Border Patrol, so the coyotes have to take a more scenic path, so to speak, and that's when the suffering kicks in full blast. If the sun and the scorpions don't get you, dehydration, lack of food and medicine, or violent confrontations with and between the human smugglers, just might.
I should also mention the moving performance of Mexican actress Evangelina Sosa, who portrays a woman crossing with her two small children. Sosa ends up appealing to what little good there is in Negro, though how successful she is, you'll have to find out for yourselves.
The trailer from the film 7 Soles
The trailer above really doesn't do the film justice, and I don't want to give away too much, but the drama definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Although it's been playing for four months in Mexico, Ultreras explained in a Q&A after the screening that U.S. distribution's been difficult to obtain because the film's in Spanish with English subtitles, and it's hardly the sort of feel-good fare many Americans prefer.
That's too bad, because I'm certain this movie could find a wider audience, particularly here in Arizona, as much of the film was shot in the desert and in Phoenix, where 100 extras were used in a drop house scene.
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In any case, attendance was such on Thursday that there will be another special screening this Sunday, August 23 at 6:30 p.m., and Ultreras will be there for another Q&A after the film. The $10 admission goes to benefit No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, the folks that leave water in the desert for migrants and often save them after they are left behind to die when they are too tired or sick to go on.
Although Ultreras is looking to show the film elsewhere in the Phoenix area, there are no guarantees, so I urge everyone with an interest in the subject or just in seeing a gripping piece of filmmaking to check it out. I'll be going again on Sunday, which should tell you something. I very rarely find current films I like, much less ones I'm willing to watch more than once.
7 Soles will be screened at Harkins Arizona Mills, Sunday, August 23, 6:30 p.m., at 5000 Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282, I-10 & Superstition Freeway @ AZ Mills Mall. The $10 admission price benefits No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes.