Movies Review: "Harvest of Empire", "Harvest of Loneliness", "El Norte" and "La Ciudad"


Movie Review: "Harvest of Empire" 

The film "Harvest of Empire" is a powerful documentary that discloses the relation between the immigrants from Latin America to the U.S. over the last decades and aggressive and profit-oriented policy of the United States towards such countries as Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. The issue of illegal immigration is of vital importance for the U.S. politicians and American society in general. Conceptualized documentary narrated by the award-winning journalist Juan Gonzales aims at changing the attitudes of ordinary Americans towards Latinos. It is assumed that by 2050, the number of Latinos in the United States will constitute one third of the total American population. Millions of Latin Americans decide to leave their homelands and move to the United States because of the financial, political and safety reasons. The documentary "Harvest of Empire" underscores the socio-political atmosphere in the countries of Latin America. The United States usually plays domineering role exerting its political and economic influence upon poorer countries. In such a way, it tries to protect its investments and maximize profits. The outcomes of the U.S. interventions are more often tragic for the population of Latin American continent, which results into massive social upheavals, mass killings, poverty and armed conflicts. An example of aggressive American policy is four billion dollar aid to El Salvador during the 1980s. Seventy percent of this aid was spent on weapons and the military. Different stakeholders give their opinions on what drives people to mass exodus. Archive footage in combination with random interviews as well as pacing and editing help to get a better insight into the histories and present day life of Latino countries. The documentary "Harvest of Empire" complicates the already heated debate over illegal immigration and encourages delving deeper into the underlying reasons. It implies that the United States has not yet fully compensated for pain and sufferings of the Latinos.

Movie Review: "Harvest of Loneliness" 

A documentary "Harvest of Loneliness" focuses on the painful and unsettling experience of the Mexicans recruited to farms in California and the Southwest. During and after the WWII and the Korean War, the United States was in a great need of laborers. Such a situation resulted from the growing number of American agricultural corporations that started to work up foreign markets and supply the domestic ones with a variety of products. The U.S. and Mexican governments signed a joint agreement known as the Bracero Program, which was undertaken from 1942 to 1964. A “bracero” is a Spanish word for a man who works with his arms and hands; it is often associated with a cheap and easily disposable worker. Economic conditions in Mexico were really hard, and many families scarcely made both ends meet. The Bracero Program was viewed as a means of survival for thousands of hungry and poverty-stricken individuals. The first-hand accounts of former braceros as well as scholars, activists and labor organizers underscored the prison style living conditions, inhuman treatment of workers and denial of benefits for disabling injuries and deaths. A dark and unpleasant side of the Bracero Program is exhibited to public in this film. The testimonies from serving braceros center on long working hours, lack of food and medical care, fumigation and scrutiny were found offensive by many. Although the program ran for twenty two years, the economy and living standards in Mexico remained as bad as they were before the implementation of the program. The documentary is good at criticizing greedy agricultural corporations as well as the policy made by American government. It concerned recruiting Mexican workers, but failed to mention that many braceros had worked their way to getting green cards and realizing their dreams partially or fully.

Movie Review: "El Norte"

"El Norte" is a thrilling movie about two desperate Guatemalan refugees, who miraculously escape from the government troops’ clutches and head for a better and more peaceful life in the North. Directed by Gregory Nava, the film is divided into three parts, which are logically connected. The movie recounts about the changing experience of the main characters. The first part, Arthuro Xuncas, gives insights into the life of Mayan Indian peasants in a small village of San Pedro. Men of this village are involved in coffee picking and plan a riot against ethnic and political persecution. However, because of the betrayal of their co-worker, they are attacked and mercilessly murdered. Surviving the massacre and mass abduction, a brother and a sister set off for "El Norte" or, in other words, the United States of America, a land where dreams come true. The second part, the Coyote, is about the challenges and hardships, which Enrique and Rosa encounter in Mexico on their way to the U.S. They try to behave and speak as indigenous Mexicans, following the advice of an old man in San Pedro. This part vividly demonstrates that there exist numerous prejudices and stereotypes among the Latinos. After several failures, the siblings make it to San Diego and then to L.A. In the U.S., they face different obstacles, which are connected with competitiveness, jealousy, and selfishness. Enrique and Rosa feel that they do not fit a new society. It seems like their dream of better life is shattered, as the final scene implies. In Guatemala as well as in the U.S. they remain “brazos fuertes” (manual workers). They are outcasts in their homeland and strangers in the new country. Although the movie was shot in 1983, it still ignites an inexhaustible discussion concerning illegal immigration, which is a major stumbling block for politicians, employers, and ordinary U.S. citizens. Dramatic effects in combination with realism of the story encourage discarding racial and cultural prejudices characteristics of the American society.

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Movie Review: "La Ciudad (The City)"

A profoundly moving film "La Ciudad" consists of four loosely connected dramas featuring the empoverished lifestyle of Latino community in New York City. Although the movie is shot in black and white with an ensabmble of amateur actors, it has won numerous awards for its credibility and emotional impact upon the viewers. The film has nothing to do with special effects, stirring action and music score as it concerns mundane reality of immigrant life in the United States. The first story, Bricks (Ladrillos), pinpoints the terrible working conditions and prevailig attitude towads Latinos as cheap labor force. A bunch of Latino men are enticed with the proposition of $50 for a day of work. When they are brought to the site, the contractor changes the terms of employment. The job is dangerous, yet the men agree for a meager pay as they are breadwinners and have to support their families. The story ends with an accident, where a wall collapses on a bricklayer. The second story, Home (Casa), featuring a young man, who cannot find his way back home in megapolis, brings about the problem of a language barrier. The third story, the Puppeteer (Titiriero), focuses on the issue of residency and the benefits it provides. A homeless man cannot enroll his daughter in a school, because he has no documents, which prove that he is a U.S. citizen. This story overtly criticizes the prejudiced attitude towards illegal immigrants and various opportunities, which they are denied on this account. The last story, Seamstress (Costurera), emphasizes the employer’s severe treatment towards his workers; he exploits them and leaves with no pay. The stories, which are inspired by the real life events, are a great tribute to Latino community. They can serve as an encouragement for American society to get rid of prejudices and stereotypes and learn to be tolerable, sympathetic and impartial.

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