(2019) True Life Drama (Oscilloscope) Claudio Rojas, Viridiana Martinez, Samuel Soto Marco Saavedra, Manuel Uriza, Chelsea Rendon, Dennis Mencia, Mohammad Abdollahi, Lilian Tapia, Robert G. Streit Jr., Jason Stuart, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Maynor Alvarado, Adelina Saldana, Roman Arabia, Luis Richard Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Garland Scott, Cassandra Relynn. Directed by Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera
The question of illegal immigration is a polarizing one without a doubt; some take a hard line at the word “illegal” and point out that there would be no problems if only these immigrants would come here legally. Others counter with the fact that it is incredibly difficult to enter the country legally for the purpose of working, despite the fact that immigrants fulfill many of the jobs that Americans can’t or won’t do, from picking crops to mowing lawns to washing dishes to cleaning toilets.
=Activists in the National Immigrant Youth Alliance are looking to change things. They decided to put their own freedom in jeopardy and purposely get arrested to be detained in the for-profit Broward Transitional Center in South Florida, owned by George Zoley of the GEO Corp, who is paid taxpayer money for each deportee he houses, often without trial or even access to a lawyer.
Ibarra and Rivera take the fascinating step of blending documentary interviews with those who actually took part in the affair, as well as some of the detainees. This is mixed in with actors playing those roles, re-enacting other incidents inside the BTC. The actors are identified on-screen when they are taking over from the real people, so we have Maynor Alvarado playing the charismatic Marco Saavedra, Dennis Mencia playing Samuel Soto, Manuel Uriza playing Claudio Rojas (more on him in a minute) and Chelsea Rendon playing the courageous but nervous Viridiana Martinez.
The movie has a bit of a thriller aspect to it, as tiny mistakes can get the activists discovered as time works against the detainees. Ibarra and Rivera weave actual footage from the 2012 infiltration along with contemporary news footage, interviews and re-enactments to tell a tense story that is as good as ay Mission: Impossible movie. Some of the activists, particularly Saavedra and Mohammad Abdollahi, a gay man who fled Iran, are particularly eloquent. Incidentally, the film also points out that while Latins make up the bulk of the illegal immigrants in detention centers, they are by far not the only ethnic group here illegally; the movie has detainees from the Middle East, Africa although coincidentally not Europe, where statistically the largest number of illegal aliens are from – mainly people with temporary visas who stay beyond the deadline.
Shortly before the movie’s Miami Film Festival premiere last year, one of the subjects – Claudio Rojas – who had been released from the facility and was attempting to gain legal status, was arrested during a routine appointment with the INS and later deported to Argentina amid much outcry, certainly as retaliation against his appearance in the film. What we witness in this gripping film serves to show just how unjust and corrupt the system is, and that people of good conscience are still willing to risk their own freedom to protect the liberty of others. That at least is somewhat hopeful.
REASONS TO SEE: An interesting mix of documentary and narrative. Timely insight into the Trump Administration’s response to immigration. Feels like a spy thriller in places.
REASONS TO AVOID: Could have used an update at the end.
FAMILY VALUES: There are adult themes as well as some mild profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Both Ibarra and Rivera had previously directed films on their own – Sleep Dealer for Rivera, Las Marthas for Ibarra.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/16/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 87% positive reviews, Metacritic: 74/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Mission: Impossible
FINAL RATING: 8/10
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