Much of the talk surrounding the now negative flow of Mexican immigrants into the United States has tended to evoke irrational, paranoid images of a barbarian invasion encroaching from the south. It’s all very colorful, and may very well help line the pockets of Donald Trump’s construction industry buddies, but it’s also objectively silly. We all know that most of the immigrants crossing over the southern border each day are just humble folks pursuing the same dream that drove generations before them across vast oceans in search opportunity. So, as nearly part of the nation is driven to the brink of madness over a supposed horde of marauding rapists and murderers entering permeating our borders, director Rodrigo Reyes invites us to ask: who is the real invader?
In a short documentary put together for The Atlantic entitled Barbarians, Reyes repurposes some material from his award-winning feature Purgatorio to tell a brief and deceptively simple story of two deported migrants intent on making the journey across the border one more time. Employing a powerful voiceover narration, Reyes explains his fascination with the border area as we are treated to stunning images of the vast, empty deserts flanking the wall near Tijuana. From there, Reyes introduces us to his two subjects, Victor and Alberto, whom he found living on the streets of Tijuana as they prepared for yet another crossing.
Over several minutes these two circumstantial friends of differing ages and places of origin reflect on work, family, and the beauty of their country; but as they speak, Reyes’ sensitive eye gives as much importance to their words as to their faces and the barren landscape that unfolds beyond the border fence behind them. It’s an uncharacteristically humanizing segment that is free of so many of the platitudes we have come to expect from conversations surround immigration and the border. And then, to conclude, Reyes muses over a slow-moving shot of a marvelous desert canyon, wondering if maybe the true invader is the irrational fear that slowly consumes this country from within.