Thursday, September 5, 2019

Immigration, close-up and ironic, in Lindsey Cordero/Armando Croda's I'M LEAVING NOW

By this time most of us have seen a plethora of films about the immigrant experience -- narratives and documentaries -- here in the USA. And these days, with immigration still the hottest of hot-button issues, thanks to that uber-twat Trump and his base base (no, that's not a typo), what might yet another immigration tale have to tell us? When it's a story as unusual and compelling as the one in I'M LEAVING NOW (Ya me voy), as a certain Mrs. Loman once insisted, "Attention must be paid."

The immigrant here is Felipe (on poster, right, and below), an undocumented Mexican who has spent 16 years living in Brooklyn, NY, working various low-paying jobs, one of which is collecting those for-deposit bottles from other people's trash.

As captured by filmmakers Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda (shown below, with Ms Cordero on the left), Felipe is an energetic, handsome, thoughtful fellow who clearly works hard and saves most of what he earns. That money still goes where it has always gone -- to his wife and family who remained behind in Mexico, a place Felipe longs for and intends to return to ASAP. (He left his youngest child when the boy was but eight months old and not been able to visit him since.)

We get to know Felipe, mostly via his conversations with friends -- and he has made some very good ones over the 16 years -- and from phone calls to that family back in Mexico. Little by little, however, some unsettling information and ideas begin to emerge. Would he really be all that welcome back home? And is that story we hear about a failing family business actually true?

We see and hear all this in bits and pieces and, while I think we rarely if ever doubt the honesty and integrity of Felipe, we're not so sure about how wise some of his decisions have been. And how has he managed to live and stay so positive and upbeat for so long? Has he no romantic or sexual life?

Yes, as we learn, he pays for sex now and then. Later in the documentary, we see an actual and quite interesting relationship begin to bloom between him and a kindly, charming woman. We meet the friend and fortune teller Felipe turns to when in need, and we hear some lovely and wise pronouncements along the way, one of which come from Felipe himself -- "Thanks to god and to the cities I've lived in. They've allowed me to support my family" -- and another from one of his good friends: "All problems have a solution. Except death."

I'm Leaving Now is a short film -- just 75 minutes -- but it packs in a lot, including an almost subversive look at an immigrant who actually wants to leave the USA for Mexico (statistically, this is what appears to happening more and more of late). And if Felipe's story seems ultimately a very sad one, do hang on for the end credits, during which you'll see and hear things that turn the tale on its ear.

From The Cinema Guild, in English and Spanish (with English subtitles), the documentary opens this Friday, September 6, in New York City at the Mayles Documentary Center, and on September 13 in Chicago at the Facets Cinematheque. Click here and scroll down to view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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