Ana plays a key role, and through her eyes we see this world, a world dominated by the tense silence and sudden outbursts of terror of adults as the “representatives” of the cartel barrel into the city firing guns into the air, shouting like conquerors. The family was taken away at night. No one knows where. Ana peeks out the windows of their home, dishes on the table, shoes next to the bed. It feels like they were torn into the sky in the middle of a meal.
The second half of the film, which is not as strong as the first half, takes on the role of new actors in the trio a couple of years later: Marya Membreño (Ana), Giselle Barrera Sánchez (Maria) and Alejandra Camacho (Paula). Now the girls in their twenties continue to soothe each other with their synchronized play and are in love with their teacher. Their hair is still cut close to the head, and they look sadly at the small nail polish bottles in the temporary salon. Being a girl is a dangerous activity. When Ana comes to menstruation for the first time, Rita doesn’t hug her daughter. She looks horrified. They both know what that means. Huezo has done such an intuitive job of setting the dangers that when girls go swimming in the river or walk home after school chatting and laughing, you’re afraid for them.
So much has been said, and this adds to the intensity of “Prayerers for the Stolen.” Photographer Dariela Ludlow immerses us in this world, in its greenery and chopped black shadows, in a burning acid fog dropped into a toxic pesticide in a village, a quiet oasis in the school room. There’s a beautiful picture of a crowd standing on a hill at dusk, the only place in town with cell phone service. Their phones light up when they try to contact loved ones, anyone “outsiders.” Much of the film depends on the young actors, and they create a credible and highly touching bond. Ana is tenacious and tenacious, and her smile cracks her face when it comes to joy. Any pleasure is short-lived. People are fleeing. Girls can no longer “pass” as boys. They are in serious danger.
Huezo’s approach is delicate but powerful. The lack of explanatory dialogue keeps us completely immersed in the everyday reality of people living in a frightening crossfire. They all vibrate in silence about things that can’t be said that don’t need to be said. Terror is the air they breathe.
Today in theaters and Netflix.