This was absolutely beautiful. Set in rural Ireland in the 1980s, Cait lives in a squalid farmhouse with her parents and her many siblings. She is not coping at school, and she just goes into herself to escape life. Distant middle-aged relatives, whom she had never met, offer to take her for the summer holidays, and she just unfurls with their gentle treatment. Although she is told that there are no secrets in their house because secrets spring from shame, she does find that there is an unspoken fact that lies under their quiet life. The last scene brought me to (copious) tears, and I kept hoping that the film might start again after the credits so that I could learn what happened next.
I didn’t get to go to the Spanish Film Festival this year because I was still a bit anxious about COVID. But I know that I will find lots of Spanish in this US-based Immigration Film Fest, while learning about immigration issues around the world. So I’ve signed up to their ten-day virtual festival. Now I just have to find the time to watch them. It runs from October 13- October 23 (American dates) and it worked out at about $100 AUD for access.
The first documentary I saw was called Docked. It starts off with a dictionary definition of ‘to dock’. To cut off an animal’s tail; to bring into a port; to cut off someone’s pay; to bring to justice. This definition works at several levels in this exploration of Peruvian and Chilean indentured labourers being brought to work as sheep-herders in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Unable to speak English, scared of losing their jobs, unaware of their rights, they are in a vulnerable position. Tom Acker, a human rights activist, travels around with a former sheep-herder to pressure for better wages and conditions and generally keeping the bastards (ranchers) honest.
The second documentary The Aliens only went for 14 minutes. Essam Soltan, Sherein Mohamed, and Sheri Soltan emigrated from Egypt when Sheri was very young. They went on to have other children who were born in America, and they were waiting for these children to reach 21 so that they would be able to apply for their parents’ residency visas. They started living off living in a basement, and both parents worked incredibly hard for just $4.00 an hour in a supermarket- no dodgy little corner store, but a legitimate big business. For me it just highlighted how big industry in America colludes with illegal immigration as a source of cheap and submissive labour. It also showed the effect of 9/11 on American attitudes towards anyone from the Middle East.
This issue of American-born children applying for residency for their parents once they turn 21 is a key plot point in G.I. Jose, where an ICE agent and a policeman raid a house where an ‘illegal’ mother and her 20 year old son and 10? year old daughter are living. The son has served in the U.S. Army but has not yet reached the magic age of 21. The police officer bails the son up in the bedroom where his mother is hiding, and he has the choice to arrest them or show mercy. Another short one at only 11 minutes.
Finally, I am venturing back into picture theatres! (In fact, in October 2022 I have finally had to make a category for ‘Movies 2022). This documentary ‘Clean’ did very well at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and it is on limited release here in Melbourne. It is about Sandra Pankhurst, who featured in Sarah Krasnostein’s book The Trauma Cleaner (click link for my review), but this documentary is not associated with the book. It picks up on Sandra after the book has been published, with its attendant publicity, and as her health deteriorates. Sandra’s terrible childhood was alluded to, but not really explored in as much detail as in the book. How little we know about other people’s lives.