Cine Las Americas 2022: Cadejo Blanco

Real Guatemalan street crime gets an understanding narrative life

Karen Martínez and Rudy Rodriguez in Cadejo Blanco

When Sarita (Karen Martínez) wakes up to see her sister Bea (Pamela Martínez) hasn’t returned home after a night out, she quickly decides finding Bea’s gang-affiliated boyfriend Andrés (Rudy Rodriguez) is the only way she’ll learn what happened to her sister.

Cadejo Blanco follows Sarita’s journey from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios in a story showing the residual effects of modern gang violence in Guatemala.

The film’s script was heavily inspired by numerous interviews with people of varying relation to gang activity in Puerto Barrios. Additionally, the majority of Cadejo Blanco’s actors had no acting experience prior to the film and were cast off the street. These efforts translate to a vivid and multi-dimensional story as the audience sees Sarita join Andrés’ gang and figure out what happened leading up to Bea’s disappearance.

When Sarita finds Andrés in Puerto Barrios and begs to join his gang under the pretense of fearing her father’s intentions to kill her, Andrés at first seems cruel and hot-headed. But after helping Sarita gain acceptance into the gang, we see Andrés in his entirety as someone who has a deep sense of loyalty to the people he cares about and learn that he has to stay with the gang because of his debts.

Sarita and Andrés both take part in several crimes as a part of their commitment to the gang and in order to survive, demonstrating the many underlying, complex motivations that can be tied to involvement. Through them, writer/director Justin Lerner depicts the cyclical pain inflicted by gang violence through some of the violent acts the gang members participate in. We’re made to empathize with both characters in spite of their actions because we’re able to understand how their pasts make them feel justified and even entitled to their crimes.

Cadejo Blanco provides international audiences with a perspective they would largely be unexposed to otherwise and confronts some of the issues facing Guatemalans today through Sarita’s story.

Cadejo Blanco

Cine Las Americas International Film Festival 2022, June 8-12.

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