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exquisitely filmed, small cinematic portraits in time
This is an exquisitely filmed and well-directed investigative look at the devastating consequences of the seemingly unstoppable, illegal entries into some sparsely populated Mexican/Arizona border crossings. Alternating between interviews and landscapes, Akerman uses a minimalist technique, documenting small, cinematic portraits in time that speak for themselves, opening with stories of stark faces of family members who have lost loved ones attempting to "cross over" to the other side, returning frequently to examine the jarringly raw desolation of the dusty landscapes on the dirt-poor Mexican side of the border wall. Later, we hear the opinions of people on the American side, landowners, restaurant entrepreneurs, who are worried about how the "invasion" of illegal immigrants might bring diseases, how they are considered trespassers and are viewed as a constant threat to their freedom, sequences which are ever-so-slightly underscored with the lush music of Chopin, a contrast to the utter emptiness "from the other side."
This is a film that continuously gets better, and continues to provoke, even days afterwards, largely due to such a haunting, avant-garde style that gets under your skin. I felt an emotional surge as the film progressed, as the sum of all information from both sides sunk in. Particularly stunning is one seemingly endless, tracking shot of cars stacked up on the American side of the border that follows one car after another, while on the Mexican side, cars whiz by, as there is no line at all, but the shot continues on into a barely-lit street of nearly empty Mexican establishments, continuing on into the darkness. Both sides view the wall from differing perspectives, Americans view the wall as staunch defenders of their own freedom, while the Mexicans see it as a path to freedom. Akerman maintains her objective distance, interviewing Mexicans in Spanish, Americans in English, returning to her native French language only when the film builds to it's highly poetic conclusion, where the filmmaker herself describes the fate of a Mexican woman who disappeared after a seemingly successful border crossing, who briefly led a quiet life but then hadn't been heard from since, who may be alive, who may be dead; she is someone who may no longer claim either "side" as her own, but who has become, instead, a non-being, a persona non grata, a ghost of one of "los desaparecidos."
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