Written & directed by Justin Lerner (Girlfriend), CADEJO BLANCO is the story of Sarita (Karen Martínez), a working-class girl from Guatemala City, who travels to the seaside town of Puerto Barrios to infiltrate a group of young gang members. She risks her life to find out what happened to her missing sister, Bea (Pamela Martínez). In the process, Sarita becomes involved with her sister’s dangerous ex, Andrés (Rudy Rodríguez) and slowly gets closer to the truth about what happened to her.
Sarita’s journey begins with her going out to a club with her sister Bea. At the club, Bea has a fight with her boyfriend, Andrés, who is a ‘marero’ (gangster) from Puerto Barrios. After Bea does not come home, Sarita and their grandma go to the cops in hopes of getting some help. Instead of helping, the cops tell the family members “Hay que tener fe (you need to have faith)”.
Sarita knows the cops are corrupt and will not look for her missing sister; especially because they come from a working-class family. In knowing all this, Sarita decides to follow Andrés to Puerto Barrios to enlist in the gang he is part of. She believes this is the only way she can find out what happened to Bea. As she infiltrates ‘la mara’, Sarita gains their trust and respect by engaging in violent and risky behaviours to help them gain control of more territory. She knows this is the only to get close to the truth.
This is Lerner’s first Spanish language film. Parts of it references other latinamerican films like Miss Bala by Gerardo Naranjo.
It took Lerner three years to get from script to production. Aside from scrip writing, casting was the next major feat for Lerner and team. The result was worth the time, as CADEJO BLANCO includes a mix of professional and non-professional actors.
Karen Martínez plays Sarita with gravitas. She has strong screen presence and carries most of the film. Alongside her is Rudy Rodriguez, a non-professional actor, who holds his ground as Andres, who is more than a ‘marero’. Supported by Brandon López, another professional actor, the cast works well together.
CADEJO BLANCO excels not only in the mixed casting, filming on location where many of the non-professional actors live and work, but also by using local vernacular of the city and country in which it is filmed.
Argentinian cinematographer Roman Kasseroller‘s work gives quite the cinematic treatment to the film with use of excellent wide shots and interesting camera angles complemented by colours and sounds typical of Guatemala. It is also worth noting the music also gives the film a very local vibe as well.
The journey of making CADEJO BLANCO started when Lerner went to Guatemala in 2016 to help establish a film school. The idea to make a film in that country started during that time after one of his students invited him to visit the portal city of Puerto Barrios. Once there, Lerner met several young people who had been or were part of ‘las clicas o maras’ (local gangs). Inspired by their stories, Lerner came up with Sarita’s story of going to look for her missing sister.
A community effort, CADEJO BLANCO is another exciting addition to current Guatemalan cinema.