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Objectivity is hard to come by as one watches this film about children
wandering away from homes that cannot sustain their basic needs. The
knowledge that none of it is fictional or manipulated for any effect
other than that of cinematic value heightens the viewer's deep
involvement with the children themselves. Nothing seems artificial. The
story is spontaneous, dictated by real events rather than "directed."
Of course there will be critics who lurk behind the camera's eye, as it were, finding fault with presumed motives and attaching political meanings to what they wish beforehand to find in the facts of this film's production. It takes a hard heart, however, to dismiss the simple premise that children ought not to be confronted with the perils of an adult world without the stabilizing presence and guidance of someone -- anyone -- able and willing to step in and help.
Think of it this way: If these children were from any place other than Mexico or Central America, would that premise be easier to accept? What if they were French, English, German, or American kids riding freight trains together with all manner of adult men of the most desperate kind?
It is not my intention to construct a straw man, but I find it reprehensible to hear as I so often do living on the Mexican border ignorant opinions chastising foreign people and governments for creating as it were the conditions that put children in such peril. The point should be to find ways of alleviating the suffering and preventing the deaths rather than creating draconian laws and policing borders. There are ways to do it without continuing to put up with the conditions we see in this film.
It is withal a beautifully constructed piece of cinema, a real must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, this film does not get into the pro- and anti-illegal immigrant debate. It simply chronicles the journey of several children (most from Central America) riding the "Beast," a Mexican train that runs north of the border with Guatemala. Many people looking to enter the US illegally will board the train (riding on top, many fall off and are crushed to death) to make the treacherous and often deadly trip. The children are from 9 to 17 years old and are either looking to reunite with family in the US, or seeking a better life away from extreme poverty in their home countries. It's difficult to imagine that anyone can watch this and not feel heartbroken - these are children, some of whom have been abandoned and have no idea the danger they face in their quest for a new life. During their trip, the kids witness two people falling off the train and getting crushed, they are robbed, caught by immigration authorities in Mexico and deported back home, and one witnesses two women being repeatedly raped in a boxcar. This documentary is very well done, and is an example of some of the best unbiased film-making of a difficult subject I have ever seen. It is definitely worth watching - a shot of realism that made me more grateful than ever that I was born in America and have it very good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This documentary is very well put together. It is about several Central
American children (ages 8 to 14) who are heading to the United States.
They are alone, unsupervised, and riding illegally (and at great risk)
on the tops of trains.
They all have different stories. They come from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, or Mexico. They are hoping to reunite with other family members up north, or they are running away from bad homes. Some were simply abandoned. Others were loved, and are eager to send money back home as soon as they find employment.
The documentary follows the children and hears their stories as they migrate from town to town in Mexico, gradually heading north. Such a journey might take days or weeks. Interestingly, crossing the border into the USA is the least of their worries; they are more concerned with the hazards of the Arizona desert. And so they should be, because part of the story covers those children returned in coffins after they were found dead.
I am really glad I saw this, but it is heartbreaking. It is unbelievable to imagine an eight-year-old child going hundreds of miles alone and having to beg for food... then considering crossing the desert! Tragically, such stories are likely to continue, since the policies of Mexico and the United States are not changing.
This documentary is not political, and does not address anything about how to handle the problem with immigration. It is merely a compelling collection of stories of children traveling alone.
Children who live in poverty and wretched conditions climb on to freight trains bound for the U.S. in hopes of a better life. When they talk of the U.S. they dream of television realities, tall buildings, beautiful people, the land of plenty, smiles all the while on their faces. But on the inside these kids are filled with pain. To reach that dream, they go through hell. Burglarized and beaten all the while hungry with the potential of being raped and murdered, all for the sake of trying to get a job in the U.S. to feed their family or go to school. This 16 year old boy talks about witnessing a mother and daughter being raped by 15 men and there's this tear in his eye that can't quite drop. His pain is suppressed. All these children attempt to drown their pain, to bury it, all the while hoping, praying, for that one chance that they may have a better life. It's hard to review this movie and not want to talk about immigration policy. But I won't, I'll let the movie do that for me and hopefully people will begin to open their eyes to some of the harsh realities the U.S. immigration policy creates. Here's hoping for a better tomorrow.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first started watching this film one late night when I could find nothing better on TV...after the first 20 minutes of the movie I found myself trying to stay wake just to finish it. The movie starts off with a large group of children boarding the top of a train late one night but then starts to focus in on a few select children. They begin to tell the stories of why they are trying to make the dangerous voyage to America. One of the little boys chose to make the journey because he was told it would be best for his family and that his stepfather did not want him around. Another little boy ran away from home just to make the journey because he dreamed of a better life. While another child makes the trip as an attempt to live with a family member who currently lives in America and dreams of the education America could offer.I found the movie to be very riveting. When watching this film it is really easy to get caught up in emotion for the situations these strong children face and the fates that become of some of them. Overall the movie was captivating and a real tearjerker. It also bring to the forefront the situation we currently face with illegal immigration in America.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For those who've seen 'Sin Nombre' and liked it, you will also like
'Which Way Home'. The subject matter, the plight of child migrants in
Latin America, is similar. However, 'Which Way Home' is a true-life
documentary and 'Sin Nombre' is a fictional feature film.
The star of 'Which Way Home' is Kevin, an extremely genial 14 year old from Honduras who hooks up with Fito, another youngster who is from his hometown. Both have goals of reaching the United States and finding employment there in order to send money back to their impoverished families. Director Rebecca Cammisa and her small film crew follow the children as they travel from Honduras, through Guatemela and on through Mexico, on top of freight trains. Along the way, other children join Kevin and Fito including Yurico (aka 'Dog'), a 17 year old from Mexico who struggles with a drug addiction. We also meet Juan Carlos, who left a letter for his mother back in Guatemala, informing her that he intends to go to the United States and join his younger brother, Francisco, who was smuggled over the border a month earlier for a fee, and now lives with his grandmother in Los Angeles. The younger brother broke his arm during the trip and if not for a stranger who found him in the desert, he would have died. Eventually Juan Carlos is picked up by immigration officials and he's deported back to Guatemala, where his mother is glad he's back but also has no regrets about sending Francisco to the United States, despite the perils of the journey.
During a screening of the film which I attended, there were a number of people in the audience who inquired as to how they could contact Kevin, since they wanted to help him. Also internet posters have expressed similar sentiments. The amazing thing about Kevin is that we find out at the end of the film that despite being deported back to his native Honduras after making it to Houston, Texas, he leaves home a second time, and once again makes it to the United States. It's difficult to describe why this kid is so likableyou really must see the film. When Kevin returns home to Honduras, we get some insight into why he wants to leave home again and it basically has to do with the conflict he has with his stepfather, who regards him as lazy and someone who's doesn't earn his keep. While Kevin appears fairly happy-go-lucky a good part of the time we see him, at other times he appears troubled. One of the most disturbing scenes in the film is when Kevin reveals he witnessed a gang rape while riding inside a boxcar of one of the freight trains where fifteen men ended up raping a mother and her young daughter. At one point, the filmmakers lose track of Kevin but they finally track him down where he's studying English at a detention center in Houston before being sent back to Honduras. Later, we find out that Kevin was last living at a youth facility in Washington State, after making it to the US following his second attempt.
One thing I was surprised about was the number of social service groups throughout Mexico and Central America who are devoted to helping the child migrants. The 'House of Migrants' is a shelter near the train tracks in Mexico which gives the children some respite as they make their long journey to the US. The director there doesn't seek to judge the children and the adults who check inalthough they do warn them about the perils of the journey, especially about crossing through the desert from Mexico to the US. There's also a group that has vans that offer first aid to migrants who have been injured, not to mention the official government agencies in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras who work in close cooperation, helping to repatriate the migrant children with their families.
The dangers of the children's' trip to the US is well documented in 'Which Way Home'. There is a jarring image of a dead body floating in the water near the Mexican-US Border. The children relate harrowing stories of various migrants falling to their deaths from the top of the trains they're traveling on. In the majority of cases, however, many of the children die of exposure while attempting to cross the desert into the US. There are interviews with the parents of two of the children 'who didn't make it'. One of the son's bodies is so decomposed that the parents must wait for positive identification through DNA evidence. There's a great scene where the hearse driver brings the boy's body back to his parents and he's all broken up over so many of these cases he sees, almost everyday.
Perhaps the most memorable images in 'Which Way Home' are that of the nine-year-old children, Olga and Freddie. One wonders how two nine-year-old's could possibly end up taking such a dangerous journey all by themselves. Unfortunately, the filmmakers lost track of Olga and Freddie and their fate is unknown.
'Which Way Home' reminds me of the well-crafted made-for-television documentaries one sees often on Public Broadcasting. There is nothing particularly ground-breaking in terms of style. But the subject matter is so compelling and touching, that you will find yourself immersed in a world you would never have dreamed existed.
Which Way Home is a beautiful documentary filmed mostly from a freight
train labeled, the beast by the children who mostly ride on the roof as
they travel through Mexico on the treacherous journey to the good life
in the United States. Ten to twenty percent will die, on average just
trying to get to America.
Olga and Freddy are a pair of nine year olds from Honduras who are headed to Minnesota to live with relatives. Another, Jose, a ten year old from El Salvador is abandoned by smugglers and ends up at a Mexican detention center. The most intriguing kid is a streetwise fourteen year old Honduran who has been sent by his mother to find work in New York City in order to send money back to her. The film is heartbreaking and the brave young kids are a testament to the yearning to survive of the human spirit and the cinematography is breathtaking. Every American should watch Which Way Home to gain a perspective on the struggles of the immigrants so often denigrated here; it is an eye opener.
In light of the invasion at the Southern border of the United States
going on now, my niece suggested I watch this movie. My heart is
saddened and heavy for these children. I see that movie was made
several years ago so I wonder where are they today? Did they ever
actually make it into the country? The abject poverty in each country
among the people is horrifying. The family conditions that these
children grew up in is horrifying. The pain that these children grew up
in is horrifying. It's hard to even comprehend children having to live
this way. The two 9-year-olds were heart-breaking. What happened to
them? Where is Kevin today? What is he doing? Why don't the leaders of
these countries do something for their people? I know there is
corruption with their governments and drug cartels, but these leaders
can't change that? Or won't?
Yes, America is a nation of immigrants. America has a system for immigrants to come here. I have family who immigrated to this country in the past several years. They came here legally and worked to do what they needed to become citizens. We can't just let THOUSANDS of unaccompanied children stream into our country as they are doing right now on our Southern borders!! It is impossible for us to take care of them all. We can't sustain that as a country!!
Certainly our immigration system needs updating but we HAVE to secure our borders FIRST.
This documentary follows several children trying to get to America from Central American or southern Mexico, entirely on their own. These are naturally sad stories, but I have to say they're hardly surprising. In fact, the most surprising thing is that the homes they're fleeing really don't seem THAT bad. But I suppose the siren call of the mythical American Dream is too much for some to resist. Director Rebecca Cammisa wisely stays away from politicizing the situation, and the film is done without narration and only brief informational titles. However, this means there is also a lack of any proposed remedies to the problem. It seems to me these kids are better off sticking it out at home, at least until they're old enough to better fend for themselves. Whatever the case, the material is very engaging as we get wrapped up in the plight of these young vagabonds.
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