Most of us don’t need any reminders that undocumented immigrants are people too, or that they’re braving extraordinary circumstances to guarantee a better life for their loved ones in an unknown country. In many cases those immigrants – documented or not – are our own families. But in the midst of all the hopelessly simplistic rhetoric swimming around about undocumented immigration, it’s still nice to see people humanizing the struggle and reminding mainstream USA how complex this issue truly is.
That’s why director Micah Fink’s hour-long documentary Beyond Borders is like a refreshing blast of thoughtfulness in these turbulent and confusing times. Featuring interviews, observational footage, and archival material, the documentary explores the phenomenon from a number of different perspectives, all without losing that crucial human element that transcends policies and prejudices.
Currently playing on public television across the country, Beyond Borders brings some serious intellectual heft with executive production overseen by Enrique Krauze – one of Mexico’s most important living thinkers – as it explores the development of undocumented immigration from the times of Reagan through the present. But the documentary goes places few others dare, with some informative asides about the US’s conquest of Mexican territories in the 19th century (you know, that little chunk of the southwest that runs from Texas to California and up through Idaho.)
But in the end, this all serves to contextualize the struggles of a handful of undocumented Mexican immigrants living in vastly different circumstances. Among the profiles included in the doc, Julissa Arce sits down to share her inspirational and tragic experience once again, alongside a number of less spectacular, but equally powerful stories: a hardworking mother who runs a paquetería out of Queens with her undocumented daughter; a group of deported mothers living in Tijuana to be close to their children.
Shot in a polished style with plenty of emotional punch Beyond Borders probably won’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but it might make you feel like there’s still a little hope for this great big messy country we live in – and those who will carry it forward into a new generation.
Watch Beyond Borders in its entirety on Vimeo for free.