Alambrista!: Robert Young’s Indie Wins Cannes Film Fest Camera d’Or

Cannes Film Festival 1978–The independent filmmaker Robert Young moved from documentaries to features with Alambrista! (The Illegal), winner of the Camera d’Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival, which offers a vivid view of illegal farm laborers in its touching, insightful tale of Roberto (Domingo Ambriz), a Mexican boy who illegally crosses the border seeking work to support his family.

Alambrista! is a small, gentle, unsentimental film, which follows Roberto as he discovers that California is decidedly not the promised land of opportunity. The cinema verite (hand-held camera, expressive close-ups) shifts smoothly from the lyrical to the nightmarish.

Young captures Roberto’s status as an outsider, chronicling his futile pilgrimage from Mexico and the events that inevitably force him to return home. Speaking no English, Roberto gets an education. Joe (Trinidad Silva) gives him a lesson in how to march into a cafe, cross his legs like a gringo, order a gringo’s breakfast (“what you really want is tortillas and beans, but here you order ham-eggs-coffee”) and flirt with the waitress.

Married in Mexico, with his mother nearby, Roberto hasn’t fully detached himself from a society of women, but now must adjust to the company of men.


Running Time: 110 minutes

Distributor: Filmhaus Productions
Director: Robert M. Young
Producers: Michael Hausman, Irwin W. Young
Screemplay: Robert M. Young
Cameraobert M. Young
Editot: Edward Beyer
Production Design: Lilly Kilvert


Roberto (Domingo Ambriz)
Joe (Trinidad Silva)
Sharon (Linda Gillin)
Roberto’s wife (Ludevina Mendez Salazar)
Roberto’s mother (Maria Guadalupe Chavez)