The theme of fathers and sons runs through the films of Venezuela-born writer-director Lorenzo Vigas, whose 2015 debut drama “From Afar,” which focuses on a troubled middle-aged man and young hustler in Caracas, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In Vigas’ latest film “La Caja” (“The Box”), which screened Thursday at the 39th annual Miami Film Festival, this motif continues to resonate — and on a global scale.

“La Caja,” which revolves around a young boy in Mexico City longing for a father figure — a desperate search with deadly consequences — could be the prototype of how a dictator such as Vladimir Putin rises to power, Vigas pointed out.

“We are always trapped in our obsessions,” Vigas told fest attendees during a Q&A that followed the screening. “I had a very good relationship with my father, a very close and warm and good relationship. But I connected with that archetype of the father figure in Latin America. And that could be the father figure also in Russia right now. A lot of people are asking themselves — how? How did this happen? But it’s the same in Latin America with [Juan] Perón and [Hugo] Chavez and the other dictators we’ve had. So where is this [evil] coming from? That’s one of the reasons I was so interested in talking about that with this film.”

The film, which Vigas shot over 10 weeks in 10 different locations across the Mexico state of Chihuahua, also explores the riptide effects of poverty on violence, specifically regarding migrant and factory workers who risk their lives every day to earn a wage on which most Americans — and most people worldwide — could not survive. For Vigas, who has lived in Mexico City for 20 years, it is “impossible not to get affected by things happening in the country.”

“It’s not just happening in Mexico, but across the whole Latin America — you have so many kids growing up alone, without their father,” Vigas said. “That’s the main theme of the film. But, it’s also about the disappearance of women in the north of Mexico, which is terrible. It’s something like 100,000 women have disappeared, for unknown reasons. Women working for these big factories in Mexico. And I got very interested in that story.”

Adding to the realism of “La Caja” is that its lead protagonist, a teenage boy named Hazín, is a first-time actor (Hazín Navarrete), after whom Vigas named the character. After spotting him in a crowd, Hazín becomes increasingly obsessed with Mario (veteran Mexican actor Hernán Mendoza), convinced that he is his father and not the dead migrant worker whose ashes Hazín has been sent to fetch. Mario turns out to be a corrupt businessman, and his influence over Hazín is what drives the quiet, heartbreaking drama into psychological thriller territory. Vigas said that Navarrete understanding the trauma of paternal estrangement in real life was key to making this film so powerful.

“We made a huge casting [search] in Mexico, trying to find a kid, that special kid,” Vigas said, “and I saw an interview of this kid [Navarrete] talking about his own father and the relationship with his own father, and he has a lot of pain coming from that place in his heart. So I knew that he was going to bring a lot to the film. And it was very hard for him to make the film but at the same time, it opened him up to a new kind of life. And now he wants to become an actor professionally as a career, and I will continue to mentor him on that journey.”

Vigas, who holds degrees in biology and was planning on becoming a scientist before “a dream in which Ingmar Bergman came to me” convinced him to transition to filmmaking, reveals that while “La Caja” tells a very dark, dismal story, it also has an ending that’s redemptive, filled with a sense of promise that people — even those who commit acts of unimaginable violence — possess the ability to change for the better.

“In the end, we are left with not knowing exactly what happens to Hazín, because it’s true that he had to bear violence, but he also makes a decision,” said Vigas. “He doesn’t stay there [with Mario]. He decides that that is not who he is. So, I am not pessimistic about his life. Because he leaves. He makes a decision. What happens to him in his life, though — that is a mystery even to me.”