Sunday, July 15, 2018

Line in the Sand

El mar la mar (2017) - Bonnetta, Sniadecki
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As Trump's cruel zero tolerance immigration policy and its inhumane consequences play out before our eyes, El mar la mar, Joshua Bonneta and JP Sniadecki's audio visual essay on the south of the border arrives. It's abstract, artful approach to the subject might infuriate some of the viewers who are inclined to witness emotional catharsis through human suffering for sure. But its deliberate omission of identifiers (other than some of the silent inhabitants on the north of the border) is perhaps the point - the film can emote without seeing the human faces.

Frenetically moving cameras capture stripey, zoetropic images of colors - green and brown, then we realize it's the border fences stretching for miles seen from a moving car or train. There are discarded clothing and other personal items strewn about, completely alien to empty, unforgiving yet achingly beautiful Sonoran desert. The night time provides with flickering lights of the either the travelers or the border patrols.

Voices of ranchers, well wishers, border patrols and immigrants spill in and out of the film, often over blank screen. They tell sudden encounters, compassion, indifference, harrowing and often fatal journey. There are vipers, coyotes. You run out of water, you die. You leave people who are weak and sick and old to die. It's all the more resonant now to think about human cost. Illegal immigration won't stop whether there are stricter laws or not. Isolationism won't solve the problem in the capitalist society where economic inequality is the root cause of all problems. El mar la mar addresses human cost of the border politics in a way that only the film medium can.