Director and screenwriter Christopher Zalla’s debut film “PADRE NUESTRO,” (also released as “Sangre De Mi Sangre” in the US) is a tale of stolen identity and desperation that unfolds as a taut thriller and showcases some awesome performances by a multi-generational cast.
At its heart the film is a story of survival at any cost and the odds that lie against an illegal immigrant, the grit and hardships demanded of these unfortunate people.
Padre Nuestro is a very original, very dark and shadowy drama with unexpected story twists. It also jerks you back and forth between two parallel story tracks. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic film of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. It was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
In Padre Nuestro, a film almost entirely in Spanish with small English portions.
We meet the hero, Pedro, as he escapes from Mexico by quickly scaling a fence along the U.S. border. Waiting on the other side (not miles away, or hidden) is a truck for taking immigrants to New York. Pedro is hustled inside, the doors are slammed, and the truck begins a 2,500-mile journey, to be survived entirely on half a taco and a small bottle of water.
Now begins the story of Pedro (Jorge Adrián Espíndola), a Mexican immigrant who is traveling by truck to New York City to find his wealthy father, Diego (Jesús Ochoa), a man he has never met. All Pedro has is a 17-year-old letter with an address at which Diego once worked. He harbors a strong desire to make contact with his dad and carries the letter of introduction from his mother to help him accomplish his goal.
It is also the story of Juan (Armando Hernandez) Juan, a ruthless and conniving ex-career criminal who tries to escape his past by hopping on the same truck as Pedro, transporting illegal immigrants from Mexico to the Big Apple.and Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola).
Over the course of his journey, Juan meets and befriends Pedro. When the truck arrives he finds that Juan has stolen all he has, and then proceeds to assume his identity to trick Pedro’s father throughout the movie. Pedro slowly makes his way to New York, but Juan arrives first and finds Diego, convincing him that he is his long-lost son. The truest of these relationships, paradoxically, is the false one.
Meanwhile, the “real” Pedro wanders the streets, remembering only his father’s street address (still accurate after 17 years). He enlists Magda, a hard-worn Mexican girl, who does drugs, makes a living by her wits and her body, and wants nothing to do with Pedro. They nevertheless become confederates, picking up $50 here or there by performing sex for men who want to watch.
Jesus Ochoa, a much-honored Mexican actor, creates a heartbreaking performance as Diego, the “old man,” as Juan always calls him. He was once in love in Mexico, left, sent money home, returned, and then (after apparently fathering the real Pedro), returned to New York 17 years ago. Maybe he told his wife he owned a restaurant, or maybe she lied about that to her son. No matter. He is a dishwasher and vegetable slicer, who earns extra money by sewing artificial roses. He has money stashed away. He is big, burly, very lonely. He comes to care for this “son.” Despite Juan’s deception, Juan comes to care for him — almost, you could say, as a father.
Magda is a tougher case. She does not bestow her affection lightly, nor is the real Pedro attracted to prostitution as a way for them to earn money. But Christopher Zalla, (who wrote and directed this contemporary post-noir thriller), does a perceptive, concise job of showing us how Magda lives on the streets and nearly dies. Magda and Pedro are together as a matter of mutual survival.
The film alternates between the story of each man as they each seek out food and shelter and comb the city for the man in whom they see a chance to establish a secure future. Pedro, Juan and Diego have paths that must eventually cross