Award-winning filmmaker Justin Lerner’s latest work, CADEJO BLANCO, takes a deep dive into the world of Guatemala’s clicas, small disorganized gangs of young people who engage in illegal activity (robberies, drug dealing, violence) in order to survive. CADEJO BLANCO unfolds through the eyes of a Sarita, who lives with her sister Bea and mother, in a working-class neighborhood in Guatemala City. One night after a party, Bea doesn’t come home. Convinced that her disappearance has something to do with Andrés, her sister’s dangerous ex, Sarita manages to befriend him and infiltrate his gang. Narrowly avoiding death at every turn, and with an unwavering determination in the face of the men who underestimate her, Sarita becomes increasingly involved with Andrés and the ruthless, violent world of his gang. As she searches for answers about what happened to her sister, she realizes that the truth is a lot more complicated than she could have imagined. In writing the screenplay, for CADEJO BLANCO director, producer, and co-editor Justin Lerner talks about how he relied heavily on the biographies of the young people he met from the gangs of Puerto Barrios. Much of the story is based on their real experiences as they were told to Lerner: their daily conflicts, the dangers in joining a clica, losing friends to violence and crime. We also discuss his casting of Karen Martinez into the complex role of Sarita and how she was able to deliver a superb, multi-faceted performance.
About the filmmaker – Justin Lerner is an award-winning filmmaker from Boston, Massachusetts. His mother is Sicilian and his father is Russian. His first feature film, GIRLFRIEND, premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and won the 2011 Gotham Independent Film Audience Award. His second feature film, THE AUTOMATIC HATE, made its world premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival and its international premiere at the 2015 Busan Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Flash Forward Award (best first or second feature). Lerner lives in both the USA and in Guatemala. In 2016, he helped launch the Escuela de Cine at Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City. He also was the program’s very first film professor.
“The visuals hold a power few dramas, save for the likes of City Of God, possess. Karen Martínez is a revelation.” – Bobby LePire, Film Threat
“Justin Lerner’s sumptuous and simmering thriller… born out of Lerner’s time in Guatemala, talking to real teenage gang members in Puerto Barrios … resembles Gerardo Naranjo’s “Miss Bala” as a story that drifts on the periphery of the criminal underworld…. Martínez is a real discovery as Sarita….” – Stephen Saito, Moveable Fest
“reminiscent of Maria Full of Grace and Miss Bala” – Bruce Haring, Deadline
“Now and then a US director immerses himself in Latin American culture so effectively that he delivers with all the gritty authenticity of a local filmmaker. Cary Joji Fukunaga did it with Sin Nombre, Joshua Marston with Maria Full of Grace. Now Justin Lerner has built on years of collaborative work with members of Guatemala’s ‘clicas’, or youth gangs, to deliver a nail-biting, evocative and utterly persuasive crime drama that is very much a part of the country’s burgeoning film output.” – Demetrios Matheou, Screen International