Prayers for the Stolen
Nestled in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico lies a village where they cut the young girls’ hair short.
This is the premise that opens Prayers for the Stolen, the feature film debut of established Salvadorean-Mexican documentarian Tatiana Huezo. Much like her previous film Tempestad, in Prayers for the Stolen, the focus is on those whose lives are thrown into chaos by criminal activities in Mexico. In particular, the film centres around a trio of young girls who grow up in an environment where all the men have left to find work, and the cartel frequently comes around to kidnap their friends. It is for this reason that their mothers cut their hair short and hide them in ditches, or lie and say they have sons.
Prayers for the Stolen is not an easy watch: there is a sense of acute hopelessness that persists 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 of moments a sinister edge. There are various such moments and Huezo does not focus solely on the hardships the girls face, but the tragic reality of their lives is ever-present. She portrays this through excellent direction and the novel choice to use a mixture of professional and non-professional actors which, unless one is aware beforehand, is unnoticeable.
The film is also beautiful. The stunning landscapes of Guerrero are captured wonderfully, and the moments of intimacy between the protagonists draw viewers into their world. In those quiet passages of time where the girls play or try on make-up, one is reminded of how children should be experiencing the world and how that wondrous sense of exploration could be taken from them in an instant by machinations out of their control.
Harrowing is not a word that should be applied to many films, but when discussing Prayers for the Stolen, there are few adjectives to describe it better. Its impact is lasting, its story pulls at the heartstrings and, after it’s over, the viewer realises how lucky they are not to have to live the life these families live in Guerrero.
Prayers for the Stolen is released in select UK cinemas on 8th April 2022.
Watch the trailer for Prayers for the Stolen here: