crossposted from As of Yet Untitled
On Thursday evening Charletta and I watched The Visitor. Charletta and I watched the The Visitor last night. Friends had recommended it and I expected a quirky, lovable independent film. It’s this, but it is also a devastating portrait of ICE detention centers from the inside and draws us into the story of the way they tear apart families and dehumanize people. Yet its not a depressing film. It combines gritty honesty and playful hope in an strikingly un-Hollywood way.
After the film finished, I thought of my friend Anton Flores (see my profile of him from last fall) whose life work is supporting those who have become ensnared in the immigration system. The next morning I woke up to an email from Anton describing his DriveFast, in which he will abstain from driving at all during Lent. His pledge, however, isn’t just motivated out of green sensibility. Instead it points to the way drivers license restrictions are used to control and dominate undocumented workers in the small town in Georgia where he lives. He’s told me stories of standing besides immigrants as they are belittled by judges for driving without a license, even as they embody the system that is taken that right away. I stayed with a family in his neighborhood who must drive every day without a license because they have no other way to get to their job. They live in constant danger of being pulled over and possibly deported
What is it like to be picked up off the street one day and have all your freedom taken with no recourse? To spend weeks and months in a detention facility run by a giant corporation whose only goal is spend as little as possible on your upkeep as possible. I stood outside one of these facilities in Georgia. I read the heartfelt comments from family members whose fathers, spouses and sons were locked up (see the comments on Stewart Detention Center)
But sometimes it takes a movie to take us inside the hearts and minds of those whose loved ones are snatched away. The Visitor does that. And yet it also shows the power of that realization to redeem the otherwise meaningless life of an old white professor. Sound cheesy? It could be if not handled expertly by director Thomas McCarthy, the man who brought us the delightful film The Station Agent. McCarthy and the multi-cultural cast create a series of rich tableaux which never feel overwrought, but rather draw us in to their world.
So go out and celebrate the beginning of :ent by joining the Drivefast and watching The Visitor.
One of the many energetic, kinetic scenes from The Visitor.