Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hell on earth for folk without a country--Charles Shaw's dark EXILE NATION: The Plastic People

The filmmaker's name is Charles Shaw (don't mix him up with that "famous" brand of wine sold by Trader Joe's). His film -- his first full-length documentary -- is an unsettling one about those men and women without a country, mostly Mexican illegals, many of whom have been in the USA for decades, who, after 9/11 and with Obama's disgusting "take" on our immigration policy, were suddenly deported to Mexico.  Mexico, unfortunately, does not want them, either. So they are dropped off in Tijuana with no money or any source of income, only to learn that local authorities and the police will harass them day and night, steal the clothes off their back and shoes off their feet, destroy their makeshift homes time and again, beat them and sometimes ever murder them (is there anything quite so wonderfully reliable as a Mexican cop?).

The documentary, titled EXILE NATION: THE PLASTIC PEOPLE, is homemade in the extreme. From its too-long and too-confusing title to its poorly designed poster (above, in which the sub-title seems to be replacing the title), to its intentional and necessary use of cell phones as video cameras (the police crack down on anyone seen filming) -- Mr. Shaw (shown at left) tracks a perilous creative course but still manages to end up with a relatively brief film worth seeing and thinking about. As the movie's narrator, Edward James Olmos (below), explains early on, because these sudden "immigrants," though born in Mexico, are now American by culture and nurture (sometimes they don't even speak Spanish well enough to get by), they do not at all fit into their new environment and thus are referred to by the locals as a term that translates to "plastic people."

We get to know briefly and anything-but-completely several of these newly deported people, especially one fellow, Javier Godinez Mondragon, who goes by the nickname of Dragon (below) and acts as our tour guide to this new environment -- a kind of hell on earth into which you would want to see no one you care about have to enter. Little wonder, given what they must endure, that so many of these immigrants end up on drugs (the cartels are an ever-present fact of life here) -- or dead.

We also meet and see the work of Chris Bava (below), who photographs many of these people and offers them help when he can, and Jonathan Espinoza, a newly married young deportee who has spent his life since five years old in America and is suddenly deported. According to the film, the 9/11 attacks began a long period of anti-immigration policy, most of which (97 per cent) has been taken out, as it ever has been historically, on Latinos, most of which have been Mexican-Americans.

These new displaced persons (we don't need another Nazi Holocaust to produce a mini-nation of DPs) are fighting for their very lives in front of us, and although the film often looks and sounds as if the filmmaker simply tossed aloft all his materials and let them fall where they may (we sometimes aren't sure who is speaking at a certain moment), the result remains unsettling and disturbing. At times the film may remind you of John Carpenter's They Live, in which the police have become "legal terrorists."

We learn of the Tijuana prison (from a fellow who was incarcerated for awhile), and discover how Mr. Bava helped Jonathan and his extended family (and also what happened to Bava himself). There is a little joy amidst all the horror, but mostly this hell-on-earth tale points up the staggering cost to illegals caught in this vise. Perhaps Obama's most recent moves on immigration will relieve the situation for those still here in America. But for those already condemned, there seems little hope.

Exile Nation: The Plastic People was released to Digital VOD this past December 16 and is now available via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, PlayStation, Xbox, Vimeo on Demand, VHX, Gumroad, Google Play and elsewhere. That pretty much covers it -- except for Netflix, on which it might eventually appear. 

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