The best films capture reality and expand upon it. Though a happy ending may not be in the cards, some stories convey the depth of emotion and complexity of humanity that we have all felt, whilst applying it to a situation that we could never imagine ourselves in.
Take, for example, living in a town on Mexican-American border – coming of age in a region blanketed with violence. It’s a situation most reading this will never experience. However, in the short film Sin Cielo, from director Jianna Maarten, we are somehow transported to this world.
Sin Cielo focuses initially on Memo, a young boy who will do whatever he can to ensure that he and his family have what they need to survive. Taking place in an unnamed Mexican town close to the US border, Memo grows up in a world where violence – specifically, kidnapping and sex-trafficking – is intertwined with almost every daily task.
The film depicts a world where “People die because they talk too much,” where “you actually never get to know the people that you’re with.”
The reality that Memo experiences first hand is one that most will only hear about, and never see. However, as Memo begins to pursue young love and his crush is kidnapped, we can somehow relate with the feeling, and the heartache of knowing that love might not last. Through this emotional lens, Maarten grabs the issue of kidnapping in Mexico by the horns.
Before making the film, Maarten traveled alone to dangerous parts of Mexico and stayed with underprivileged families near the border, many of whom knew someone whose daughters had been abducted or who feared for their lives themselves. This close proximity to reality is apparent throughout the film.
Sin Cielo is a reminder that behind the numbers – thousands of “disappeared” women and children – exist suffering people and communities. This world, these communities, are brought to life through stellar performances from the likes of Sophia Santi and David Gurrola and chilling production and visuals.
The short currently has 7 wins from 11 nominations, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, the Young Jury Prize at Palm Springs Shorts Fest, the Grand Jury, Audience Award and Best of Fest Prize at Ivy Film Festival. It is now officially Oscar 2020 qualified.
Sin Cielo can next be seen at Marfa Film Festival, Calcutta Cult International Film Festival, and Pennsylvania Indie Shorts Film Festival.