Desierto is an immigration thriller with impeccable credentials
Alfonso Cuarón is an intriguing film director, producer and writer — possibly the most important contemporary artist dealing with the immigrant experience.
He famously gave us a dystopic vision of the near future where the only hope for the survival of humanity is a pregnant, wisecracking African immigrant in a society that herds immigrants into ghettos and behind fences (Children of Men).
Then, with his son Jonás as co-writer, he crafted the Academy Award-winning film Gravity, a harrowing space drama that on its surface would seem to have little to say about immigrants. Except. Except it replicates the immigrant's experience of isolation and alienation, of being adrift in a vastly unfamiliar place.
In Desierto, a second collaboration with his son (this time Jonás is both writer and director, and Alfonso serves as producer), the vision is of a desert at the the southern border turned into a immigrant hunting ground.
"What begins as a hopeful journey to seek a better life becomes a harrowing and primal fight for survival when a deranged, rifle-toting vigilante chases a group of unarmed men and women through the treacherous U.S.-Mexican border, reads the synopsis of the film. "In the harsh, unforgiving desert terrain, the odds are stacked firmly against them as they continuously discover there’s nowhere to hide from the unrelenting, merciless killer."
The escalation from the alienation of Gravity (2013) to the vigilante persecution of Desierto (2016) echoes the escalation in how the U.S. views immigration. We went from a country that in Gravity's day had passed a Senate immigration reform bill and was waiting on a bipartisan Gang of Eight-led House bill to be finalized, to the country today, in which Donald Trump has racked up leading presidential poll numbers with hateful rhetoric about immigrants, and by promising to, figuratively, hunt them down.
That is the America the film will open in March 4.
I haven't seen the film. I have no idea whether it will exhibit the mastery that both Children of Men and Gravity exhibited, but I have high hopes.
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Cast: Gael García Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo
Director: Jonás Cuarón
Writers: Jonás Cuarón and Mateo García
Producers: Jonás Cuarón, Alfonso Cuarón, Carlos Cuarón, Alex García, Charles Gillibert
Release Date: March 4, 2016