Special to El Observador
Donald Trump’s divided states of America is the backdrop for the film Hermanos, a documentary by Mexican-born director Laura Plancarte, that chronicles the contentious story of immigration as seen by its two main protagonists: a former pageant queen from Montana who has fallen on hard times and an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who sought the mythical American Dream and lost.
Vanessa is the former Montana State Queen who after losing her home, being divorced and out of a job, cannot make ends meet in California and decides to return to her childhood home of Montana. Her sense of loss is great, and she reflects on better times in her life. Like many Americans who had seen their promise of a better future suddenly cut short she too comes to the false conclusion that immigration and specifically undocumented immigration played a critical part in her own personal demise. Perhaps unintentionally, the film casts her as the villain in large part because of her own misinformed views on immigration that are expressed in the film and her strong, unquestionable support of Donald Trump the candidate. This film was made before Trump eventually would become President. While her views are genuine and personal the audience at times may not be able to contain their laughter or derision at what seems to be at best ignorant and at worst racists views on the causes of her failed life.
Juxtaposed to Vanessa are the brothers Chuy and Chato, two brothers who were abandoned by their mother who left Mexico to find her American Dream in the U.S. Both brothers, much later in life, would also cross into the U.S. and have been deported back numerous times. But it is the older brother who as a child remembers their mother the best and thus feels the pain of abandonment the most. In his mind he sees his mother as having achieved the dream of American prosperity, a good job, a house and a life of luxury, but the mother’s reality is so much different. She too has struggled trying to survive in America, lives in a rented bedroom in someone else’s home and her only true possession is her car.
Their journey in this film is reconnecting with their mother who they have not seen in decades. She has since become a legal permanent resident of the U.S. and they hope that she can send them money for another border crossing. Through the eyes of the two brothers we see that America is not all that it promises to be and that in Mexico their life is worth even less.
Both stories are ultimately about reconnecting with their respective past, searching for truth in a world of chaos, and attempting to discover the source of their suffering. For Chuy and Chato it is a motherless childhood and for Vanessa it is the longing for a strong father figure absent from her own upbringing.
Throughout the film we also witness the views of various people, White and Latino, who reflect and comment on our nation’s current state of divisive discourse, their views on immigration, and perceptions of the undocumented based often-times on myth and personal or cultural biases. Laura’s film does not seek to answer questions of immigration, or social justice but rather invites the audience to start the conversation and to recognize the historical role of both nations, the U.S. and Mexico, metaphorical siblings, and how the push and pull of this codependent relationship has brought us to where we are today – a people divided pursuing the same dream.
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