Prayers For the Stolen
Director: Tatiana Huezo
Talent: Ana Cristina Ordóñez González, Marya Membreño, Mayra Batalla
Release Date: April 8
In this depiction of small-town Mexican life, the locals live in constant fear of the cartel, their open top jeeps cruising the town like cattle trucks full of masked armed men. They also live in fear of child traffickers in league with the local police who appear at a moment’s notice, tearing into town peeling away one child at a time, the parents flailing and begging in protest to no avail.
Through a much narrower scope, Prayers for the Stolen follows the path of three young girls living under this terrible oppression. Over time, the focus narrows again primarily falling on González’s Ana and her mother Rita (Mayra Batalla), a woman who lives on a knife edge in the hope her absentee husband will send money or send for their daughter.
It’s a complex position for the town, with no one to help them and no one to trust, generations of fractured lives have lived and died under this cloud of dread. Ana’s mother has a hidden grave dug to hide her daughter in, should the men ever call. As the girls become young women, they cut off all their hair to deter the visitors.
It’s not all doom and gloom and there are plenty of tender moments between the friends. There’s a teenage love interest subplot with a local gang-affiliated boy but that’s cross-pollinated with another subplot about the poisonous chemical dusting by those keen to protect their poppy crops.
It’s a strange almost otherworldly coming-of-age movie watching the three girls develop under such systemic oppression and violence, but it makes for compelling viewing. It’s handled sensitively and leaves room for optimism. Prayers for the Stolen is a taut, claustrophobic and tightly directed film that heralds great things for its cast of talented young leads.
Words: Shane O’Reilly