Oscar-Winning Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s KIND Commercial About Immigrants Crossing the Desert Might Make You Cry

Lead Photo: Emmanuel Lubezki accepts the Best Cinematography award for 'The Revenant' onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Emmanuel Lubezki accepts the Best Cinematography award for 'The Revenant' onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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Actions speak louder than words, that’s the central principle behind Kind’s new campaign that points out how helping others is the difference between being nice and kind. The company behind the popular granola bars partnered with three-time Academy Award winner Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant) for a commercial/short film that interprets this notion using the cinematographer’s unique visual talents. Like Lubezki, Kind CEO, Daniel Lubetsky, is also a Jewish-Mexican immigrant, and they are joining forces to spread a message of empathy and proactive support towards the most vulnerable.

Diverting the focus from the many militia groups on the Mexico-US border, Lubezki’s short, More Than Nice, follows volunteers from the humanitarian group, No More Deaths, as they walk through the Sonoran Desert leaving jugs of water for migrants attempting to cross. Their objective is not to encourage nor deter people from crossing, but simply to save lives. Although seemingly small, the group’s actions make a real difference for those in desperate situations facing harsh natural conditions.

“I was struck not just by the incredible courage but also by the tremendous empathy that these volunteers had, going out of their way to protect the well-being of fellow human beings they may never meet,” said Emmanuel Lubezki for Kind’s website.

Lubezki’s stylistic fingerprints are noticeable throughout the minute-and-a-half short. His use of natural light is reminiscent of his work in Terrence Malick’s film The Tree of Life and Alejandro Gonzelez Iñárritu’s The Revenant. The sun shines through the lens delivering evocative flares and imbuing each shot with a sense of spirituality. Manipulating how sunlight falls on his subjects and how that shapes our perception of the atmosphere is one his greatest artistic virtues. Other birds-eye shots show the vast landscape’s beauty and treacherous qualities. The arid land that separates both countries is seen through the POV of those on the ground as they retrace the steps of the people who have perished there.

Lubezki makes sure the viewer sees these people’s faces when they write loving messages in Spanish on each jug of water or while they ponder the significance of their actions while on the road from one location to the next. We see them closely in low-angle shots and from high up to the rhythm of the sweeping motion that has the signature Lubezki cadence. Angelic music paired with the volunteer’s voiceover and images of objects left behind by migrants on their journey make for an emotional piece of cinema. As the camera pans over the border barrier the light moves in between the fence openings, taking us towards the refreshingly open ocean.

The commercial feels like a companion piece to Lubezki’s work in Carne y Arena, Iñarritu’s VR experience that puts the viewer in the middle of a chaotic scene, where a group of migrants are confronted with the extreme temperatures of the environment and the brutality of border patrol officers. More Than Nice reiterates the need for compassion on a basic human level, but pushes forward the idea of doing something tangible for others beyond words. One of the volunteers sums it nicely in the short, “My grandmother used to say, ’There’s a difference between nice and kind. There is no sacrifice in nice. Kind requires it.’”

If you want to get involved with this campaign, you can submit a written essay, photo, or video that showcases your interpretation of the difference between nice and kind. Three winners will receive $25,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. Other prizes include cash and photography/videography gear to help fund your next creative project.