A Spanish-language American film produced independently in association with the PBS TV series "American Playhouse," EL NORTE is an effective and moving drama about the strength of the human spirit and the will to survive. Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa Xuncax (David Villalpando and

Zaide Silvia Gutierrez) are Guatemalan Indians forced to flee their village when their politically active father is murdered. They decide to make a new life in el Norte ("the North," i.e. the US) but, as difficult and demeaning as the illegal trek across the border is, it is not nearly so rough as

the struggle to make a living in Los Angeles. EL NORTE's style alternates between straightforward, almost documentary-like exposition and surreal sequences that take place in the characters' dreams. The film has a political message, but it is a subtle and compelling one that allows situations and

characters to speak for themselves.