Gaby’s Movie Review: ‘Smuggled’

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As someone who has been a supporter of U.S. immigration reform for many years, films like Smuggled have undoubtedly captured my attention. Movies have the power to take us out of our own little world and transport us into someone else’s. It’s then that we can learn or experience how someone else lives, and honestly, I’ve found that’s a very effective way to get people interested in immigration reform and these kind of issues, by making them see why and how so many people migrate to the United States illegally. Smuggled is a tense and heartbreaking story of one boy’s journey across the U.S./Mexico border.

Sealed into a tight compartment in the cargo area of a travel bus, Miguel (Ramsses Letrado) and his mother, Hilaria (Denisse Bon), are being smuggled across the border. With some food, water, medicine and a Game Boy to keep them alive and occupied, the two keep faith that they will be reunited with his father and her husband soon. Through their conversations, the audience comes to know them and why they would go through such extreme measures to get to America. At first, it just seems like a mother and son bonding, sharing a story or two and a laugh, but by the end, everything that happens hit me so hard. It’s devastating. And what makes it even worse is the reminder that this is what people may actually go through just to have a chance to live in the U.S.

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Lead actors Ramsses Letrado and Denisse Bon on set

I wasn’t sure how much I’d like Smuggled. It was filmed on a micro-budget and definitely looks like it was at times. However, before I even realized it, I was completely drawn into movie, as if I was stuck in that tight space with these characters, feeling their anxiety, claustrophobia and hope. That was largely due to Denisse Bon’s captivating performance as Miguel’s mother. The moments between mother and son are what really makes Smuggled an engaging watch. Their onscreen chemistry is what helps the audience connect with the story. In many ways, the mother reminded me of my mom, allowing me to personally connect to a story and experience that I had never come close to experiencing ever in my life. Letrado and Bon humanize the story. Their characters, Miguel and Hilaria, don’t just represent a statistic; they’re real people, the everyday immigrants smuggling themselves into the United States in order to achieve a better life.

The writer and director, Ramon Hamilton, brings this story to life in an authentic and moving way. It isn’t flashy or stylish. It doesn’t beat around the bush. With a framework narrative, the boy’s story is revealed and we see the horror he goes through. With its success on the film festival circuit and several wins at the Mexico International Film Festival, Smuggled continues to prove how it resonates with audiences. It’s a human story, one that will definitely pull at hearts and remain in viewers’ minds.

Rating: 8/10

SMUGGLED is currently available instantly through Vimeo On Demand.  The film will be available on DVD soon. Make sure you like SMUGGLED on Facebook and are following @Smuggledthefilm or @Ramon_Hamilton on Twitter to stay up to date with the DVD release and upcoming screening events. In May, there will be several screening events in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Learn more about SMUGGLED filmmaker Ramon Hamilton:

Emboldened by the success and impact of the micro-budget film SMUGGLED, Writer/Director Ramon Hamilton and his producing partner, Jennifer Fischer, are now working on their next film, which  done with a larger budget in order to have a wider reach and create change on a grander scale. The film, SEEKERS, has an Academy Award Winning producer, Jonathan Sanger, attached. Sanger has 35+ years of experience working in the industry and has produced many critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, such as The Elephant Man, Vanilla Sky, Mission Impossible II, and many more. In SEEKERS, four kids (ages 7-16) find themselves on the adventure of a lifetime as they journey cross-country (and cross borders) to reunite one of them with his mother, who was deported after a routine traffic stop.The film seeks to evoke the feel of STAND BY ME, THE GOONIES and other classic kids adventure films, while also having a powerful effect and shedding light on the harsh reality of our current immigration laws.  

hamilton at MexicoSMUGGLED was received quite well on the film festival circuit with 5 wins and 15 official selections. Its awards include: Best Drama – Mexico International Film Festival, Best Narrative Feature Great Lakes International Film Festival Best Narrative Feature Third World Independent Film Festival, Founders’ Award Riverside International Film Festival, Best Feature Reel Rasquache Art & Film Festival. The complete list of official selections is: Tupelo International Film Festival, Big Bear International Film Festival, Santa Rosa International Film Festival, Third World Independent Film Festival, San Francisco Latino Film Festival, Santiago International Film Festival (SANFIC), Tulipanes Latino Art and Film Festival, SoCal Independent Film Festival, Kansas International Film Festival, Washington West Film Festival, Great Lakes International Film Festival, London Latino Film Festival.

Finally, Ramon also works tirelessly to nurture the next generation of filmmakers – and is definitely a part of Young Hollywood in that way as he (and his fellow Teaching Artists at Think Ten Media Group/Generation Arts) teach hundreds of Los Angeles Area youth each week the art of filmmaking, animation, graphic design and more.

Gabrielle is 27 years old and lives in Chicago. She enjoys writing about film, TV, and books, but occasionally writes about music as well. In addition to writing for, she also the editor-in-chief and a co-founder. In her spare time, she’s either watching more movies and shows or reading more books, while continuously checking Twitter, which she may or may not be addicted to… Feel free to email her your thoughts, ideas and questions.