US, 1977, 110 minutes, Colour.
Domingo Ambriz, Trinidad Silva, Edward James Olmos, Julius Harris, Ned Beatty.
Directed by Robert M. Young.
Alambrista is a feature documentary by Robert M. Young, a professional documentary-maker who has moved into the area of features in the late seventies. His film about prison life was Short Eyes, 1978. Alambrista shows a particularly Californian problem with illegal migrants moving from Mexico to the United States in search for work. It highlights the way of life and poverty in Mexico and is very good at shoving the difference in background. culture, styles of life from Mexico and the United States. We see the way of life of America through the eyes of an only partly comprehending Mexican. The film shown the world of work, poverty, language barriers, loneliness. It
is very effective in its capturing of atmosphere an well as its portrayal of character and raising of social themes.
1. The overall impact of the film? Its purpose: entertainment, education, social comment and critique?
2. The film as the work of one man - photographer, producer, writer and director? His view of human nature, social situations in the seventies, the plight of the Mexicans, American society? What points of view did he wish to communicate to his audience? How well?
3. The presentation of the world of Mexico and its poverty, California and Colorado as contrasts? The appearance of both worlds and the scenery of mountains, fields and crops, towns and cities? Beauty, ugliness? The contribution of the score, the songs? The songs as representing the societies and cultures from which they came? The irony of the lyrics and the way they were used?
4. The title and the focus on the illegal immigrants, the focus on real social issues? The personalising of social issues and their emotional effect on the audience, communication of issues and values by the emotions? How much does an emotional response affect understanding, intellectual judgment?
5. The initial presentation of the world of Mexico... he crops, irrigation, hard work, the poor house, the lack of facilities, the birth of a child and its importance, the bonds of husband and wife, parents and child? The background of economic realities and the need to find work in the United States? The story of Roberto’s father and his disappearance? His wife not wanting him to go nor his mother, his decision to go and their passive acceptance of this? Seeing him send his cheque to his wife? How well did the film communicate the needs of the Mexicans?
6. The motivations for the Mexicans to go to the United States? The isolation of their world, lack of knowledge and experience? The bus trip, the creeping over the border, the groups of migrants and their being harassed. taken by the police, returned? The need for documents and paying for illegal documents? The Mexicans who were returned and their being exploited by United States businessmen? The humiliation of the trip to Colorado, the police and their intervention and taking the migrants back home?
7. The sequences of Roberto's learning how to cope in the United Alambrista States? the two men and their humour? Practising going into a cafe, ham, eggs and coffee? Hitching a ride and hiding? The police and the explanations of the laws of hitch-hiking? Going on the train and the humour of sitting in the cars, waving to the police? The sudden pathos of the disappearance of Roberto's companion?
8. The importance of these sequences and so many later during the film as a way of assessing the United States through a Mexican's eyes and ears? Foreign language, foreign styles, different ways of eating, facilities and homes, conditions at work, money, relaxation, religion?
9. The picture of labour, the hard work, the crops, the money? The ordinary Mexicans being used by the Americans especially in the Colorado strike sequence?
10. How sympathetic a character was Sharon? The small insignificant girl, her kindness to the customers, her work in the cafe, her help to Roberto, saying his money, taking him home? The bond between the two, sexual relationship? Taking him to the Revivalist religion and her participation in it, his bewilderment? Communication with her brother? The loneliness and his sharing with her despite the limitations of language? The shopping, his buying her the scarf and giving her the present? Her seeing him send his cheque to his wife? The, dance and the sudden eruption of the Immigration officers and the bond between them broken completely? How good a portrait of sympathetic Americans?
11. The portrayal of the kind people in the United States, follow Mexicans? The people in the cafe, the incessant talkers? The drunks?
12. The picture of the police and their work, arresting the Mexicans, the deportation? The desperate nature of the Mexicans placed back home and their readiness to be exploited?
13. The picture of the American Revivalist session with the great attention to detail, emotionalism? Spiritual experience?
14. The border situation, the discussion with the American with his Mexican agent in the rounding up of bodies and numbers? The crossing of the border, the trek through the hills, the hiding? The humiliating long ride to Colorado? The car dump and the poor food? The complete humiliation, the need to protest the helplessness and the contrast in the town when Roberto was helpless but was taken care of? The Alambrista futility and the need to go home?
15. How credible that he should encounter his father as he died? Looking over his goods, his home? The realization that this was no life?
16. The sequence of the border and the suddenness of the woman giving birth, the watching of the birth and the sudden irony that the boy van born on the United States soil? This X as a symbol and comment on the social issues?
17. How important a study of human beings, society of the seventies, law, social justice and needs? The standards of varying ways of life? Exploitation of people? What conclusions wore to be drawn from this film, for social action? How universal are these Mexican? American problems?