Dir. Simon Brand, Colombia, 2008, 116 minutes.

Paraiso Travel takes on the much-travelled (and, recently, much-filmed) journey from Colombia to the dubious paradise of New York where immigrants perform gruelling jobs and live in squalid illegal dwellings. Other films have trod this path with far more drama and imagination.

Director Simon Brand's subtitled Spanish-language drama will be a hard sell for American audiences. Colombians in the US will surely see the film if it gets a commercial release, but its prospects will be slim amongst the many distinct Latino populations in America (each of which has its own immigration saga) or south of the border, where local films have trouble crossing borders. Still, the popular Mexican actress Ana de la Reguera (Nacho Libre), in the role of an aspiring salsa singer, could help broaden the film's reach, especially on home video.

A hit in Colombia since it opened there in January, Paraiso Travel lacks the heartbreaking intrigue of dramas such as Maria Full of Grace (2004) or the style and dark intensity of Padre Nuestro (2007). It takes its title from a Medellin travel agency which sells passage to the Eldorado of New York for $3,000. Handsome Marlon (Correa) and his lusty girlfriend Reina (Blandon) are both from the city's middle class and just out of high school. They steal money to buy tickets to reach a place that they know only from their dreams.

The film begins by shifting back and forth between cold inhospitable New York and the impetuous couple's dangerous odyssey from Medellin to America.

We meet Marlon and Reina in a crowded illegal warren of rooms in Brooklyn where they quarrel after the long dangerous trip. Things heat up when police stop Marlon for littering and he leads them on a chase, injuring a cop, and ends up without money or documents and unable to find his girlfriend or their basement room. As he roams from one nasty job and flophouse to another, Marlon attracts a series of women and the whacky porn photographer Roger Pena (Leguizamo, also an executive producer), but the earnest immigrant's goal is to find Reina.

Brand's direction builds the film episodically and ponderously around Marlon's encounters with women and work, against the backdrop of a vast, indifferent New York The script by the novelist Jorge Franco Ramos and Juan Manuael Rendon covers predictable ground for a melodrama about credulous innocents who set off into hostile territory. Newcomer Aldemar Correa plays Marlon with the incendiary humourless brooding that befits a character stuck with that name. As Reina, Angelica Blandon has the panache of a seductive nymphette who convinces her boyfriend to leave home.

In New York, locations shots by DP Rafa Lluch are as generic as those of Law & Order and the interiors look like those you've seen in movies before. Yet the scenes of the couple's journey through Guatemala and Mexico are fearfully gripping, as helpless illegals who already paid for travel are shaken down, or worse, at every stop. The immigrants touch US soil in Texas - some dead, some alive - when they're pulled out of hollowed logs stacked on flatbed trucks. In glimpses like that, you can see the pain that's at the core of Paraiso Travel.

Production Companies/Backers

Grand Illusions Entertainment

Paraiso Pictures

Intern ational Sales

Creative Artists Agency 424- 288-2000

US Distribution

None yet


Santiago Diaz

Isaac Lee

Alex Pereira

Juan Manuel Rendon


John Leguizamo

Juan Santiago Rodriguez

Executive Producers

Sarah Black

Ed Elbert

Jonathan Sanger

Line Producers

Chris Bongime

Becky Glupcynski

Luis Fernando Ortiz


Jorge Franco Ramos

Juan Manuel Rendon

Based on the novel by

Jorge Franco Ramos


Rafa Lluch


Alberto de Toro

Original Music

Angelo Milli

Production Design

Miguel Angel Alvarez

Main Cast

Angelica Blandon

Aldemar Correa

John Leguizamo

Ana de la Reguera

Ana Maria Sanchez

Margarita Rosa de Francisco