★★★★☆The ongoing search for a better life becomes a desperate fable of escape from poverty in Diego Quemada-Díez's debut feature The Golden Dream (2013). A coming of age drama of sorts as four kids up sticks and hike towards America, it never shirks away from the horrors of their journey, including kidnappings, gangs and gun-ho border patrols. Juan (Brandon López), Samuel (Carlos Chajon) and Sara (Karen Martínez), three Guatemalan teens, head northwards in search of a new start in the States. On the way they meet a young Tzotzil boy, Chauk (Rodolfo Dominguez) - who doesn't speak Spanish - but strike up a partnership with him as they wade through the dangerous world of migrant travel.
It's Ken Loach, however (with whom Quemada-Díez worked on Carla's Song and Bread and Roses), whose vérité style and political undertones carry over here. The three young leads - all non-professionals - have been exceptionally well-cast. López as Juan, the group's de-facto head, is especially perceptive as an actor, brooding and forthright, who knows just what he wants until he sees it for himself. Meanwhile Martínez, who tapes up her chest and cuts her hair to make her look like the male Osvaldo, is a powerful young heroine. The Golden Dream's Spanish title translates to The Golden Cage, the name of a song about how Mexican migrants arrive in the US to find cheap, often exploitative work but aren't given migration papers, left as effective prisoners to the country. Here, the youngsters are prisoners of a dream that will tragically go unrealised for themselves and for countless others.