Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: On the Divide

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

On the Divide
Directed by Leah Galant and Maya Cueva
Documentary Competition – Screening Information

It’s not easy to relate to someone else’s point of view, especially if it stands in stark opposition to what one person believes. There are key conflicts in how people from the same neighborhoods, religions, and other communities see the world, and the increasingly polarized, politicized nature of society makes it difficult to even try to find common ground on controversial subjects. What might help is an understanding that the passion those on one side of an issue feel can be just as strong as what those on the other side feel, a concept explored in this eye-opening look at the city of McAllen, Texas.

McAllen is located on the US-Mexico border in Texas, and is home to Whole Woman’s Health, the only abortion clinic in the area. Denisse, who has four children, is one of several volunteers who serves as an escort for the women who come to seek services, while Rey serves as a security guard for the clinic despite his strong religious beliefs. There to protest the alleged killing going on within and counsel the women who try to enter is Mercedes, a former gang member who was since turned to Christianity, following the leadership of church organizers intent on saving every baby in their city.

Though it’s tempting to take a clear point of view, which most audiences watching this film likely will given that it spotlights the last remaining abortion clinic in a deeply conservative region, this film does a remarkable job of giving equal time to those on both sides of this divide. Some might argue that equal time shouldn’t be doled out, especially given the considerable resources of the church as compared with the clinic, but this film, more than anything, seeks to understand why these people are so driven to do what they do. The purchase of a building three doors down from the clinic as a home for a new pro-life crisis pregnancy center is devastating for those who operate and support the clinic, but the church members believe they are doing God’s work, just as determined to provide what they deem an essential service.

This film is most poignant when it gets to hear directly from its subjects, letting them expound on what they have been through in the course of their lives and why they believe what they do. It’s a good example of keeping an issue local, not making it about how political leadership in southern Texas affects the entire country. If it wasn’t already apparent, the deep conservative bent of the area is definitely on display, and this film succeeds at showing everyone’s humanity even if its investigation of the pronounced separation may not be able to change any minds of those who actually live there.


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