Berlinale: Programme

Film File

Berlinale Special

El Norte

The North

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Civil war has been raging in Guatemala for decades. Rosa and her brother Enrique are fleeing the merciless slaughter of the indigenous population. They are heading north. The term ‘el norte’ has acquired a certain mythical greatness in their homeland, whose austere beauty contrasts with the poverty its people bear with dignity and solidarity. It refers to the USA and its promise of prosperity. But during the pair’s gruelling journey through Mexico, they start to realise just how hostile a destination ‘el norte’ is for those hoping for a better life. Stranded in infamous Tijuana, they put their lives at risk to cross the strictly guarded border. And even when they reach their destination, there can be no arrival for those who may be permitted to toil but are not afforded a place in society. Released in 1984, El Norte is known today as one of the first US-indie films to enjoy great success outside the Hollywood system. Gregory Nava’s epic work was nominated for a screenplay Oscar. Told from the point of view of two young siblings, his escape story puts a human face on the countless victims who must flee from living conditions in Latin America, making the film now more topical than ever.
In cooperation with NATIVe

Gregory Nava

USA 1984

Spanish, English

141’ · Colour · 2K DCP

Restored in 2017 by the Academy Film Archive, supported in part by the Getty Foundation


Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez (Rosa Xuncax)
David Villalpando (Enrique Xuncax)
Ernesto Gómez Cruz (Arturo Xuncax)
Alicia Del Lago (Lupe Xuncax)
Lupe Ontiveros (Nacha)
Trinidad Silva (Monty)
Tony Plana (Carlos)
Enrique Castillo (Jorge)
Diane Civita (Alice Harper)
Gregory Enton (Len)


Gregory Nava
Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas
James Glennon
Betsy Blankett
Los Folkloristas, Melecio Martinez, Samuel Barber
Robert Yerington
Production Design
David Wasco
Hilary Wright
Assistant Director
Roberto Gerard
Bob Morones
Production Manager
Berta Navarro
Anna Thomas


Gregory Nava

The Latin American director, writer and producer is known internationally in particular for his Oscar-nominated film El Norte. He is also recognised for his family saga, My Family, and the biopic Selena, about the American Tejano singer. His film Bordertown, in which Jennifer Lopez played the leading role as she did in some of his later films, screened in the 2006 Berlinale Competition. He is also co-writer of Frida and executive producer of the television series American Family.

Filmography (selection)

1972 The Journal of Diego Rodriguez Silva; Short 1976 The Confessions of Amans 1984 El Norte (The North) 1988 A Time of Destiny 1995 My Family (Meine verrückte Familie) 1997 Selena (Selena – Ein amerikanischer Traum) 1998 Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Why Do Fools Fall in Love – Die Wurzeln des Rock'n'Roll) 2006 Bordertown

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019

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Independent Productions

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