Monday, January 28, 2019

Sundance with Abe: The Infiltrators

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the sixth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

The Infiltrators
Directed by Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra

It’s fair to assume that most, if not almost all, of the people attending the Sundance Film Festival consider themselves liberals. The content is not always in line with what the more conservative state of Utah endorses, and it tends to cover a variety of themes that are progressive and eye-opening, featuring all types of characters on screen in fiction narratives and exploring new ideas and concepts in documentaries. Overt politics aren’t quite as common but they can still be found in many films, representing what attendees are thinking about and want to see featured in the programming.

This documentary-narrative hybrid tells the story of members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a group of illegal immigrants who broadcast their status publicly as a way to help others and to fight the system of discrimination and constant fear that rules the daily lives of their families. When Claudio Rojas is arrested and sent to a detention center in Broward County, Florida, his son contacts NIYA, prompting two of their members, Marco Saavedra and Viridiana Martinez, to purposely get arrested so that they can begin to create change from the inside, working with detainees to fight their deportations.

Each scene that takes place within the detention center features actors portraying the real-life people interviewed throughout the rest of the film, a decision made by directors Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra because they knew they couldn’t shoot inside the center and wanted to convey those moments to audiences. The caliber of the acting and the dialogue is not strong, and it feels very staged in a way that dilutes the experience of watching the actual Marco and Viridiana work with fellow NIYA members on the outside to help give those with no previous hope a chance at ending their indefinite internments. A straight documentary would have been more effective with the events on the inside recounted rather than replayed.

It’s astonishing to think that this film takes place in 2012 when Obama was President, a far cry from the current debate on immigration that involves a border wall and a much-increased ICE presence and persistence. The work done by NIYA is truly incredible, and audience members at the Sundance premiere screening gave a rousing standing ovation to the very large number of cast and crew members present. This is a film that shines a light on a part of this system that isn’t always discussed, and, as Sundance programmers clearly believed, it’s an important and relevant look at what it means to live in America today.


No comments: