Jonás Cuarón started to dream about Desierto about a decade ago, when Donald Trump was just a billionaire only involved in choosing the most beautiful women for his Miss Universe contest. When Jonás finally sat down to write it, the script was so tempting that it inspired his director father, Golden Globe winner Alfonso Cuarón. Desierto’s grim tale of migrants stranded in the middle of the desert was the basis for the Golden Globe nominated Gravity (which the Cuaróns, father and son also co-wrote). Gravity’s success in turn helped Jonás find the money needed to film Desierto, which 3 years later, is representing Mexico at the Academy Awards and is one of the two entries from that country for the Golden Globes. Originally, the younger Cuarón thought his story was just a nice mix of a thriller and a western, but now the film has become a political metaphor for the moment we are living in, and if President-elect Trump chooses to make his campaign promises a reality and starts to persecute the Mexican workers staying illegally in the United States or builds his giant wall to keep them away from trying to cross the border, Desierto will acquire a prophetic quality. That is something that Jonás never imagined when he went to Baja California to shoot the film with a fiercly independent spirit and just enough money to finish it on time.
Desierto tells the story of Moisés (Gael García Bernal), a mechanic who is making the trip along with other 13 illegal immigrants from Mexico into the United States when the truck where they travel breaks for good shortly after it departs. It's really hot in the desert, there's no road and no possible help since they are in the middle of nowhere, trying to avoid the migra. The coyotes who are taking them to the promised land don't want to miss the opportunity to keep the money they got from their cargo, so they decide to guide them on foot, even if one of them, Mechas (Diego Cataño, half-brother of Jonás in real life) explains to his boss that he is unfamiliar with the area and does not really know how to walk to the border. But since this is not the first time that Lobo (Marco Pérez), the leader of the coyotes, has done it, he is forced to walk along with the others. Everything changes when a precise shot kills Lobo, and everybody else becomes game for Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an alcoholic loner who has decided to take action on his beliefs about protecting the borders and getting rid of unwanted visitors with just a shotgun and a killer dog named Tracker. From that moment on, Cuarón keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, while Moisés and the few others that are left try to save themselves, unable to retreat to Mexico or to reach the United States as Sam thinks the only way possible for them to go is to their graves.