THE OTHER SIDE (DE L'AUTRE COTE)
(director/writer: Chantal Akerman; cinematographers: Raymond Fromont/Robert Fenz/Chantal
Akerman; editor: Claire Atherton; Runtime: 99; MPAA
Rating: NR; producer: Xavier Carniaux; Icarus
Films; 2002-France/Belgium-inFrench, Spanish and English,
with English subtitles)
"Thought-provoking documentary on illegal immigrants."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Renown Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman ("Jeanne Dielman, , 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles"/"News from Home"/"Hôtel Monterey") films this thought-provoking documentary on illegal immigrants from mostly on the Mexican side of the border. The slow-moving doc sympathizes with the impoverished Mexicans who risk their lives to make some money and get a better life in an unfriendly United States, whose citizens on the border towns are mostly outraged by the constant flow in illegal traffic and in their worst thoughts consider them as criminals, drug dealers, property destroyers and trespassers, possible disease carriers and might present other dangers to the locals such as being terrorists. Akerman interviews relatives of the border crossing Mexicans who grieve for those who lost their lives crossing the border and American sheriffs facing constant strife from the illegals, as she films in her distinctive style of pauses and long takes the recent massive wall erected to keep out the invaders. We learn it might make it tougher for the illegals to get to San Diego and El Paso, but these desperate illegals are willing to take greater risks by going through the rural desert areas of Arizona to cross the border. The film mainly highlights the barren landscape between Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Mexico, and how dangerous an area it is to cross. The US border town features a highway sign that captures the feeling of many American locals: "Stop the Crime Wave! Our Property and Environment Is Being Trashed by Invaders!"
Akerman is mostly concerned
that these 'invisible people,' the marginalized
unemployed Mexican worker, are being screwed by both
governments because of their bias against them, while
the coyotes (paid smugglers) often take their money
and run away leaving them alone to die in the hostile
desert. The spare investigative journalism film is
done in a sensitive and evocative way that tells us
about the plight of the illegals, while never getting close
enough to them to really know the private thoughts of
their subjects. The film makes no attempt to say how the United
States should change its immigration policy with
Mexico, but lets us see the illegals poor living
conditions at home and lets us come to our own
conclusions on what is the right thing to do for this
source of cheap labor. What it's weak on is
providing enough facts so we have a good idea what the
problem is on both sides and are not swayed by merely
raw emotional sentiments. It ends up being an arty
pic, but one that fails to dig deep enough into the
problem to be of more value.
REVIEWED ON 4/20/2012 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ