Platitudes like “home is where the heart is” feel hollow; for many around the globe, the issue of home is not quite that tidy. You don’t have to look far to see how immigrants struggle to be made to feel at home in a new country, even if that’s the only place they’ve ever known. And while we could definitely be talking about many of the people being targeted by ICE agents, the documentary Si Bondye vie, Yuli (God Willing, Yuli) sheds a light on the immigration debate in the Dominican Republic.
Directed by Haitian Jean Jean (whom audiences will recognize as one of the actors from Carpinteros), the film centers on his own mother Yuli, who’s lived in the Dominican Republic for over 35 years. Her precarious immigration status has made raising her sons in peace rather difficult. And when changing regulations make her situation more dire, she becomes a perfect subject for a documentary that wants to ask what it really means to belong. Candid interviews with Jean Jean give viewers a chance to see the life she’s made for herself with what little she’s got. In doing so, this doc feels timely and all too familiar, as immigration rhetoric becomes more polarized. As she puts it in the trailer for the film (which you can check out below), it all should be quite simple: “I feel good. And you have to live wherever makes you feel good.” Of course, laws, paperwork, and many other legal issues make that kind of sentiment harder to honor.