Latinx Screens: Film, TV, and Video

Asynchronous Blog Post on Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre is set as a border crossing social-political thriller. The stories of Sayra, a teenager living in Honduras and hungering for a brighter future, and teen gang members Smiley and Casper, for whom the Mara Salvatrucha is nearly their entire universe, become interlaced on the train to the US border, a journey that will determine the future of their lives.”

-Production Notes, Sundance Catalog

ASYNCHRONOUS BLOG POST (Deadline 11/2 before the class)


1. Rent and watch the film Sin Nombre (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2009)

2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2oo-words minimum).


Give your interpretation of the film title: Sin Nombre (Nameless). Think about the gangs’ naming practices and ethics as well as the experiences of migrants. Refer to plot elements, specific scenes, and/or characters.


How does the film contextualize migration to the US from Central America? Refer to plot elements, specific scenes, and/or characters.


In filmmaking, a long take is a continuous shot with a duration much longer than the conventional editing pace either of the film itself or of films in general. Significant camera movement (handheld or with a steady-cam) and elaborate blocking are often elements in long takes.

Why do you think the director and his crew decided to film the above-posted sequence as a long take? Which character’s point of view is highlighted by filming this scene as a long take? How does this long take make you feel as an audience member?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Sin Nombre do you want to bring to the discussion?

16 thoughts on “Asynchronous Blog Post on Sin Nombre”

  1. Honestly, it just brought me curiosity because in a barrio such as the one described in the film it is prohibited to enter. Many of the gang members salute each other with different signs and hand signal languages reminding the viewer that they are not the same as them and the director makes it clear that this is what they go through in their actual day-to-day life. The director made sure to prolong the video to show just how many people are in these communities that the members are actual family. They own houses and expand by recruiting people and extending the bloodline. They also show the talents of each member that they themselves are their own society even having tattoo artists. The director made sure to include a scene where the boy was looking at the guns and it was stated that they have to work to have their own. The society is of rank from the top gang leader being first and then his second in command. I believe we are looking at memories that each member had to experience in order to be accepted in this society. This is a society of no escape, and once you’re accepted, it is an all ride or die mentality for your family and friends.

  2. I interpreted the films title, Sin Nombre, as a representing and highlighting both the thousands of migrants that travel to cross the border and the lives of those who are gang affiliated. There are many migrants that travel to America seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Among the migrants and border control they are seen as one of many, thereby making them nameless. Additionally, I believe the title also calls attention to the many migrant lives that have attempted to cross the border but were unsuccessful. Such as Sayra’s father, who returned back to Honduras to assist his daughter and brother cross the border and died along the way. Unfortunately, her father’s name and story will probably go undetected by authorities and will be seen as one of the many migrants that have risked their lives along their journey to The United States .

    The title could also highlight how those who are affiliated with gangs are often given a name and are no longer referred to by their birth names. An example is when Lil’ Mago corrects Martha Marlene when she asks why Willy, her secret lover, couldn’t join them. Lil’ Mago then corrects her calling him El Casper, disregarding his real birth name. Including the scene where Lil’ Mago corrects Willy’s name, demonstrates the dominance and ownership that gang’s have over its members. Therefore, upon joining the gang every member is no longer independent and must refer to themselves through their given name, making them nameless.

  3. I believe the director decided to do this long take to show the typical environment or “chill spot” for gang members. Everything was showcased from the excessive tattooing, the people making out, the place where they eat, etc. It allows for an audience to step foot in their world. I believe this was taken from the perspective of Smiley. Though the camera is behind his head, we’re seeing everything at his eye level and Point of view. From his innocent perspective and curiosity I feel just as Immersed as Smiley. Aside from this scene I wanted to point out the tear drop tattoo that Casper has. I knew it was popular within gangs but I never knew of its significance or even cared to look it up until one scene where Casper is rewatching the videos he took with Martha and he suddenly becomes frustrated and scratches it off his face. According to Google, the teardrop mean murder. Whether the person lost someone to it or they killed someone themselves. If that’s the case then I would assume Casper would keep his tattoo since he lost Martha, but maybe since it’s gang affiliated and he no longer wanted to be part of it, that scene where he scratches it off could have signified that.

    1. I do agree that the director of the film decides to focus on this long shot to show the everyday activities . The scene shows the everyday environment that the gang members take part in . In the clip it says “what’s for the gang is for the gang” . This shows that this is “home “ for all the gang members. As this is allowed to happen myself as well as any other audience is able to see and understand what goes on in their world . I would also say this is taken from the Perspective of Smiley due to the camera angles . If it was from another angle it would be different but in this case it’s behind his head which is kind of showing what his eyes see. In addition the film shows that people do what it takes. It focuses on the danger and risks that need to be taken. Whether it’s to feel safe or the gain power within a community. Tattoos are used to represent power within a gang . The more tattoos one has the more experience and power they’ll have over others . This is seen on many characters including Casper . The film helps me understand why gangs exist and how sometimes it’s what’s better for that person

  4. Migration is a reality for many people as a way to escape poverty, neglect and political wars. The film Sin Nombre depicts the dangers and risks that immigrants have to face when coming to America. As seen with the character Sayra and her family have to walk for days in order board a train as stowaways. Constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of border control, robbers, rapist and unwelcoming civilians. A constant threat that is hinted out throughout the movie is the sexual abuse of women in these types of situations. But before, Sayra is almost sexually assaulted on one of the trains she is constantly seen being stared at and mugged in the camps. What also contributed to this foreshadowing was the fact that Willy’s girlfriend was murdered during an attempted rape as well. So, when history repeats itself he feels the need to put an end to it. Another way the film contextualizes migrations is by showing the conditions that travelers have to endure.For example, showering, which is often seen as a common task is actually a luxury for them. Many of them go without showering for several days and are only able to do so when friendly civilians allow them.

  5. The film contextualizes migration to the US from Central America as a difficult and dangerous journey. The film shows many scenes that support this, like when Sayra was walking in the jungle and was getting bitten by mosquitoes and her feet got badly hurt. The danger is seen all around when they get on the train as gang members were killing, raping, and taking the money of the innocent people there. The hardships of migration are shown in the film when it presents the people drinking dirty water from the swamps because they can’t get any clean water anywhere and also sleeping on the floor, dealing with having all their valuables taken from them and being degraded by the police of neighboring countries they were passing through. They also had to endure horrible weather and the burning sun while on the train and only had a plastic cover to keep them from getting wet and someone has to stay on watch while other sleep before they don’t feel safe that they won’t be attacked during their sleep. Another thing that is shown in the film is how they did not have the luxury of taking a decent shower and had to do it outside in front of everyone for the guys, and the girls did not even feel safe enough to take their clothes off for fear someone might invade their privacy. Finally, the most difficult aspect for them was the constant need to flee for fear of being apprehended by the authorities and deported back to their home country.

  6. The film touches on the topic of migration to the US from Central America. Sin Hombre is about the experiences of different people such as ex-gang member Willy aka “Casper”, and Sayra (who migrated with her father, uncle). In the beginning of the film, we see Casper involved in gang activities such as killing. Casper seems to show no remorse for the victim that him and other new gang member Smiley however this changed when Casper’s girlfriend Martha got killed.

    The killing of Casper’s lover resulted in Casper killing the gang member Mago, who was the person behind the death of Martha. In the scene where Smiley, Casper, and Mago were robbing migrants on the train Smiley was shown having second thoughts during the robbery. This then resulted in Casper killing Mago and ironically the people who were also involved in that scene were Sayra, her father, and her uncle.

    This scene symbolized a lot because after Casper killed Mago we see him migrating to the US with Sayra. This touches and portrays the experience of migration to the US from Central America because people like Casper lived in bad conditions with gang activities around them in their home country. They want to start a new life and put the past behind them by going to another country with opportunity. The film also touches on the topic of Migration with Sayra, who got separated by her father, and uncle. We see the risks that people who migrant to the US take during these long and hard trips. These risks can be severe and can involve losing a family member, as Sayra later in the film discovered.

  7. Sin Nombre gives different meanings to the title throughout the film. I think the title Sin Nombre could refer to all the immigrants that make their way to the US and end up losing their life on the way there. When another immigrant mentioned to Sayra’s dad that the train wouldn’t be leaving because a migrant had died, her dad had asked who it was but the immigrant said that they were just another immigrant. This is a clear example of the film title because they didn’t know the name of the immigrant who died and they would forever be just an immigrant that fell off the train and died. Additionally, Sayra’s dad died on his way to the US and he became another unknown immigrant that couldn’t make it. Although all the gang members had real names, they were called by the nicknames given to them. Casper’s real name was Willy, but he was only called by that name when he was with his girlfriend. His real name didn’t mean anything when he was with the gang. When Benito started getting into the gang, he was given the nickname Smiley and became known amongst the gang and no longer used his real name since his real name no longer held any meaning. There’s many immigrants that die on their way to the US but without knowing their names, they just become another number.

  8. The movie, Sin Nombre, can be interpreted from a variety of perspectives. Smiley is hardly a small child who unfortunately suffers from the consequences of his surrounding context. The influence to which he is revealed towards the criminal gang, Los Maras Salvatruchas, exposes him towards a train journey whose final destination is an identity crisis. Therefore, his initiation into the Maras leads him to experience a series of deep doubts about himself. Leading him to the extent of finding himself killing Casper for the simple fact of feeding the character that he has decided to be: Smiley. Normalizing the act of killing since it is a ritual for his gang. On the other hand, most members of a lot of gangs are not recognized by their names, but by the aliases that are given to each of them. It is ironic how many of us are given nicknames in our childhood depending on many reasons such as physical traits or similarities with other people. However, in the case of these gang members, many of them use nicknames for the simple fact of remaining anonymous. In other words: Sin Nombre. In the film, it is displayed how Benito is called by his name before joining the Maras, and once he joined he was never called or identified with his birth name.
    On the other hand, Sayra’s story is a clear representation of the great difficulties involved in migrating to a Heaven where you do not know if you will arrive alive or dead. Sayra’s dad is a clear example of a “nameless” passenger whose memory will be forgotten, and his story will never be told because his remains may forever be stranded on the train tracks.

  9. Overall, the whole movie was great and did a good job portraying how gang life and crossing the border is. I interpret the name of the film “Sin Nombres” as everyone has their own nickname and using the actual name is prohibited since knowing the actual identity might jeopardized the gang. That’s why in the scene with the gang leader and Martha, she calls Casper by his actual name, Willy. This triggers the leader and makes him suspicious of what she knows which ultimately lead to her death. Another that is notable is that every gang member is known by their specific name and how they salute each other. For instance, in the scene when smiley greets the gang members for the other town, they ask who’s in charge, so they know for sure he’s part of the Mara. As for the migrants, I believe it means that when they leave their native country, they lose everything including their name to create a better life in America. Another way that I think the title is relevant to the migrants is that so many of them die on the trip that it doesn’t matter their name because it being so common.

  10. When watching Sin Nombre (Nameless) by Cary Joji Fukunaga, I noticed the little details that the writers included in the movie. When showing the whole journey that the characters like Sayra took to get to the United States, they portrayed the immigrants as humans. I felt that was important because recently immigrants are seen as “criminals” and people who are greedy. However, in the movie they shared water, they helped each other when it rained and they showed that they were scared for their lives. Even though they were scared of what might happen, they kept going on the journey because they felt that they were headed for a better place. For example, when Sayra is travelling and her friend starts to get tired, the man guiding them tells them that they have to see it as an adventure, and I believe he used that word to help calm them down and try to make the migration seem less frightening. I think it’s implied that the man guiding them had migrated multiple times so he knows how the fear can get to your head. I believe the film portrayed the immigrants as believers and hard-workers, which they are.

  11. My interpretation of the film title Sin Nombre (Nameless) is that it can refer to the thousands of migrants that make the decision to leave their native land and travel to the United States. Many of which do not make it because they die throughout the journey, much like Sayra’s father, and most of them are unable to be identified or their death’s go unnoticed making them the nameless. When Syra’s father fell from the train he became a nameless person to the border patrol officers, just another migrant that met a tragic end. The only ones that were there to witness what happened to him were his brother and the man they had met on their journey otherwise no one would have ever known about what happened to him.
    The film title can also be referring to the way gang’s refer to their members. Like we saw in the film each gang member is referred to by a nickname, making their birth given name obsolete. We can say that by the gang taking their members names away they also take their independence. Those members are now one with the gang and their nicknames represent that. A perfect example of this is when Lil’ Mago corrects Martha Marlen when she refers to Smiley as Willy. In Lil’ Mago’s world Willy, the person or man, doesn’t exist only Smiley, Willy’s persona, the member of his gang and who follows his orders.

    1. I think you tackled the “nameless-ness” pretty well, and there are many forms in which it is expressed throughout the film. The death’s of the “nameless” are those without names, but also “sin” means without in spanish, so they are also those who go without. The migrants go without names, they go without aid, and they go without basic needs. The gang members go without family, and so they must create their own. The “going without” of the movie is one of its central themes. We can see examples of so many people going hungry and needing a better life, so their only choice is to try and go north. For the gang it is different, however, because what they lack is humanity. They don’t have the connection to empathy and they are without it. Names also signify ones identity in many cultures as well, and it is no different for the gang members. They are without personal identity, so that if one of them dies or is hurt or injured, they can continue to move forward and keep “thugging.” Overall, being nameless leads to a certain kind of fate. One without direction, and one without safety or security.

    2. “Sin nombre” implies “nameless,” or “without a name.” The reason for this, in all honesty, was a scene involving one of those border crosses that stated “sin nombre,” and it had to do with people who died at the border but had no idea who they were, like a John Doe. Some of the people that try the voyage are depicted in this harrowing film. While there is some humor thrown in for good measure, the film focuses on the inherent dangers and grief in its subject matter. Against the illegal immigration trade backdrop,

    3. “Sin Nombre” depicts one boy’s quest to escape Mexico’s gang culture. After a gunfight with a rival gang, Benito is badly beaten twice and kills two people; one of them is unarmed, and the other was a former buddy he used to be close to. There are many reasons to wonder why Benito would join an organization like this. There are socioeconomic pressures that drive young individuals to join street gangs like Benito’s transition into Smiley. At first, Benito is depicted as an adorable preteen who searches for a mentor. Young children with guns with their older brothers, as the man on the floor screams for his own family, is a powerful illustration of gang pressure and loyalty, which leads to horrible acts of violence.

  12. I think the title of the film in Spanish, “Sin Nombre” refers to a nameless character. As usual, every person needs to be understood by the identity of the name as far as other features such as race and gender are concerned. Being nameless sends some signals of suspicion to other people in society because it is kind of trying to hide some identities. In this film, the title metaphorically implies that lots of controversies are likely to happen due to the nature of hiding the identity. The exposition element or the introductory part unfolds how Sayra, a Honduran girl comes across a Mexican young man who is attached to a gang of armed robbers. The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga demonstrates the gang with tattoos, guns, and even taking oaths (Focus Features n.p). The group of criminals also demonstrates anger when Casper seems to move away from them. Thanks to Sayra for acting as a savior to the Mexican young man by trying to bond with him and even bring him to the limelight of the family. Sayra keeps approaching Casper to remain strong and focused despite the challenges such as being thrown from the train.
    The title can also be used to build the foundation of unknown things such as the dark world powers. It is evident in a scene of the rising action when Sayra tells Casper that everything will be fine and they will arrive in the United States, not by the power of God but by the power of the devil (Focus Features n.p). It could be the reason why Sayra and Casper are confident of entering the United States in a wrong way. Violence is seen as the order of the day and the title is used also purposely to avoid mentioning any community as a source of violence in the United States. Making the title names implies that anyone can interpret the film based on the people he wants to. The climax of the film also suggests that the entire gangs are planning to spread around the world. Migrants suffer in the film because they are taken as secondary options by natives.

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