Cannes Film Festival 2021: Prayers for the Stolen (Noche de Fuego)

Cannes Film Festival 2021: Prayers for the Stolen (Noche de Fuego) | Review

July 15, 2021


Nestled in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, is a village where young girls’ hair was cut short.

This is the premise that opens Prayers for the Stolen, the feature debut of Salvadoran-Mexican documentary filmmaker Tatiana Huezo. Just like his previous film Stormin Prayers for the Stolen, the focus is on those whose lives are disrupted by criminal activity in Mexico. The film is particularly centered on a trio of young girls who grow up in an environment where all the men have left to find work, and where the cartel frequently comes to kidnap their friends. It is for this reason that their mothers cut their hair short and hide it in ditches, or lie and say they have sons.

Prayers for the Stolen is not an easy watch: there is a sharp sense of desperation that lingers throughout, and the threat of violence is a constant presence. It seeps into every scene, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat and giving even the most innocent moments a sinister edge. There are various such moments, and Huezo doesn’t just focus on the hardships the girls face, but the tragic reality of their lives is omnipresent. She portrays this through excellent directing and the innovative choice to use a mix of professional and non-professional actors which, unless you are aware of it beforehand, is imperceptible.

The film is also beautiful. Guerrero’s stunning landscapes are wonderfully captured, and the intimate moments between the protagonists draw viewers into their world. In those quiet moments when girls are playing or trying to put on makeup, one is reminded of how children should experience the world and how that wonderful sense of exploration could be taken away from them in an instant by machinations beyond their control.

Harrowing isn’t a word that should be applied to many movies, but when talking about Prayers for the Stolen, there are few adjectives to better describe it. Its impact is lasting, its story strikes a chord with hearts, and when it’s over, the viewer realizes how lucky they are not to have to live the life these families live in Guerrero.

Joe Milo

Prayers for the Stolen (Noche de Fuego) does not yet have a UK release date.

Read more reviews of our Cannes Film Festival 2021 coverage here.

For more information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.

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