Saturday, May 09, 2009
"The Other Side of Immigration", film by Roy Germano, at the "Politcs on Film" Festival
The brief “Politics on Film” festival in Washington DC May 7-10 presented the one hour documentary “The Other Side of Immigration,” (film website) a digital video (in regular aspect 1.78:1) directed by University of Texas doctoral graduate student Roy Germano. The DVD was projected onto a reduced area of the screen, rather than filling it as with normal projection.
The underlying argument is easy to state. Since NAFTA was enacted during the Clinton Administration, American agriculture, with its emphasis on huge corporations, has driven down the prices of Mexican agriculture, making it impossible for Mexican men to support their families. So they go north, sometimes illegally, to take undesirable jobs in the United States. (So do women, and sometimes into the sex trade). The film, with some irony now given current events, showed a lot of scenes on Mexican hog farms.
Many of the men are husbands providing for wives and children in a conventional way, but some are unmarried and are providing for siblings. Mexican immigrants send a lot of money back to families, and this money is important to the Mexican economy. (The same is true in Europe, where Muslim men send a lot of money back home.)
After the film showed, there was a panel discussion including the filmmaker and Bush administration Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and two others (including a customs official). One idea that was floated was that, even with the current unemployment rate, there are many jobs that are hard to fill and that legal temporary immigration ought to be made easier. The jobs include farm work and particularly giving home health care. Filling these jobs will be important to economic recovery, partly because of the demographics.
I have visited Mexico (other than border areas) once, in 1974, over Labor Day weekend, and on Sunday, September 1, 1974 I saw the “inauguration” of a Mexican president. I was in the process of moving to New York City then. The following is the Wikipedia attribution link for the Commons photo of the Old Palace that I remember seeing.
Before the screening there was a showing of the micro-short “Strappers” from Stone Soup films, about the importance of prophylactics in preventing HIV transmission.
One other thought regarding "Politics on Film" comes to mind. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was contemplating traveling to New York (from Minneapolis) in October for a symposium on political films. I had written down the phone number of the contact before I left the apartment for work around 7:45 CDT that morning. How much has changed since then!