Set against the backdrop of Bush's War on Terror and Barack Obama's rise to presidency, the film follows the story of 14-year-old Angel, an undocumented Latino teen, who struggles to find his place in an increasingly violent world. With the promise of naturalization papers, the US Military presents Angel's family with the opportunity for a brighter future if they send his older brother into the US Army. With his eldest brother gone, Angel is left to the designs of a local street gang, and the family left to deal with the consequences of the choices they have made. Written by
El Salvadorian refugee background: In June 1971, President Nixon declared a "war on drugs." He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Richard Nixon (now dead) created a power vacuum in Central and South America, creating Mexican and Brazilian Cartels that would eventually lay a violent and bloody siege upon the poor people of El Salvador.
Fast forward to 1981, when El Salvador's military leaders began to employ "scorched earth" tactics in their battle against left-wing guerrillas. In Spanish the saying was "sacar el pes del agua," or "remove the fish from the water." Total warfare and destruction was the objective, and the policy resulted in a brutal massacre in the small town of El Mozote. Over the course of three days in January, 1981, approximately 1000 people, almost the entire population of Mozote, were tortured and slaughtered. The American government was intimately involved with El Salvador's right wing government before and after the massacre. We provided them with weapons, money, and political support for a full 11 years after the massacre.
El Salvador's long civil war between savagely repressive U.S.-funded military forces and a leftist guerrilla army ended in 1992. But while the peace accords ended the "war of bullets," the political, social, and economic war began again, and under the rules of the right, the rules of capitalism, and the rules of the United States. In this context, the triumph of the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front)the former guerrillasin the last two presidential elections is quite remarkable. The victories of Mauricio Funes in 2009 and Salvador Sánchez Cerén in 2014 have threatened to disrupt the Salvadoran government's historic pattern of compliance with U.S. interests.
The Obama administration has sought to ensure the adoption of corporate-friendly policies in El Salvador by conditioning Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) development aid upon a slew of neo-liberal reforms that include privatization, the relaxation of business regulations, and the enforcement of trade provisions that privilege U.S. corporations.
"Greencard Warriors" has a very special place in my heart: Directed and written by Miriam Kruishoop, "Greencard Warriros", is a touching story of an El Salvadorian family in the United States illegally, trying to better their lives. Helle Jensen takes the helm as cinematographer and along with Kruishoop, beautifully captures the dark Gothic beauty of Latino culture in Los Angeles. I was particularly moved by the opening title sequence showing brothers Angel and Beto riding harmoniously together through their neighborhood; accompanied by the song "I'm an Ese" by Quennine. The Los Angeles city scape certainly isn't wasted in this film, which includes fly over excerpts of sprawling residential LA, many incredible street locale shots, and several ultra realistic Latino gang sequences. Interior shots of Jesus's home utilize close up camera shots displaying shadows and colors emphasizing the extreme pain of the family members, yet emulating a dark Hispanic beauty inherent in hard lined facial features and dark piercing eyes.
Manny Perez stars as Jesus Garza, the struggling family's father and turns in an incredible performance, along with his wife Rosie played by Christianne Christensen. Their oldest son Beto, played by actor Mario Ardila Jr., is quite convincing as a young man turned gang member in effort to bring in money. Angel, their middle child, is beautifully portrayed by actor Angel Amaral; a young El Salvadorian left with few if any choices in his family's struggle for survival. Other acting notables include Cesar Garcia as Mad Dog and Maynor Alvarado as Joker, who both turn in very realistic portrayals of Hispanic street gang leaders.
The plot is based upon Jesus being convinced by two dishonest Army recruiters that the only hope for Jesus and his family's quest for US citizenship is for his son Beto to join the Army. As Beto spirals further into gang life, Jesus pressures his oldest son to join the Army. Beto finally agrees to join the Army in an effort to help his family achieve legal status. After Beto leaves the barrio for the Army, things go down hill for Jesus's family: Angel is accosted by and eventually succumbs to the pressures of the neighborhood gang Beto was involved with and Jesus runs into trouble with the LAPD; forcing him to go into hiding... The very last scene of "Greencard Warriors" featuring Jesus's wife and young daughter is both heartbreaking and angering to say the least...
On closing, the cinematography by Helle Jensen is so moving and encapsulates the Los Angeles Latino struggle. The intermittent use of Spanish and English is masterfully accomplished and is something more filmmakers should try incorporating! Director/ writer Miriam Kruishoop hits a home run with this tragic story of unimaginable pain and heartache. As far as post production goes, this film was wonderfully edited and masterfully mixed with sound effects and music. "Greencard Warriors" strives to address so many different societal issues... 90 minutes isn't enough! The film does feel rushed in certain parts because Kruisshoop has packed so much emotion and many societal issues into one film. This review has only touched on the very basic details of this film. I personally own this film on DVD and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a dose of reality.
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