Waynesville Mail

Resilience and Survival at the Heart of Compelling Crime Drama

Cadejo Blanco


Genre: Drama, Thriller
Year Released: 2023 
Runtime: 2h 5m
Director(s): Justin Lerner
Writer(s): Justin Lerner
Cast: Karen Martinez, Rudy Rodrigues, Brandon Lopez, Pamela Martinez, Juan Pablo Olyslager
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Where To Watch: opening theatrically on April 21, 2023, at Laemmle NoHo in Los Angeles, followed by additional markets

RAVING REVIEW: Unleashing a blend of crime thriller and modern Western, CADEJO BLANCO invites viewers to immerse themselves in a world where Karen Martinez's exceptional portrayal of Sarita captivates the audience. This film champions women's empowerment after a bit of a climb to get there while exposing the real-world issues women face—echoing the cinematic essence of Taylor Sheridan’s Frontier Trilogy SICARIO, WIND RIVER, and HELL OR HIGH WATER.

Journey to Guatemala, where the story follows a determined woman from Guatemala City who dares to infiltrate a formidable gang in a coastal town while searching for her missing sister. Director Justin Lerner's bold decision to cast raw talents he discovered during his research adds an authentic feel to the film. There were a few bumps in the road with some of their performances, but that was to be expected and almost made it more believable.

Under Lerner's guidance, Martinez's performance blossoms into a complex and relatable protagonist, humanizing her character despite the daunting circumstances. Watching the radical evolution on the screen shows what the human spirit can do when faced with the worst. Lerner's commitment to the project, which involved a two-year collaboration with the young people of Puerto Barrios, results in a seamless and engaging narrative.

I’ll be 100% honest, I missed this, but reading someone else’s thoughts on it made the entire film even more intriguing. The movie mixes subtle fantastical elements throughout, which keen-eyed viewers may catch. Sarita encounters a pair of dogs—one dark, the other white and wolf-like, hinting at the presence of supernatural forces.

While CADEJO BLANCO's Western-infused crime thriller structure is a slow burn, there was enough steady action to keep me locked in from start to finish. Martinez felt like she was two entirely different people in this role; although I wish there had been more focus on her character growth, it felt jarring going from one extreme to the other. Throughout the film, Martinez conveys a nuanced demeanor; not knowing what’s going through her mind helps amplify the reactions she has.

Renowned Boston filmmaker Justin Lerner embarked on the journey to create CADEJO BLANCO, his third feature film, in 2017. He traveled to Puerto Barrios, a Guatemalan port city plagued by the nation's highest violent crime rates and gang-related fatalities. Lerner's conversations with current and former gang members provided invaluable insight and stories that shaped the screenplay. Roman Kasseroller's cinematography accentuates the film's journey with stunning visuals and critical attention to detail on where characters are within the frame of reference. 

Lerner's casting process brought together amateur actors from Puerto Barrios and seasoned professionals from Guatemala City. The cast collaborated on refining the script and dialogues, ensuring regional authenticity. The results speak for themselves and take viewers into the world of gang culture, delivering a powerful narrative of resilience and survival.

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[photo courtesy of FILM MOVEMENT]