Giving a face to the risks and rewards at the heart of crossing the border into the United States can be a daunting task. No two stories about those who hope to travel into the country are alike. This is perhaps why the animated short film We are the Immigrants opts to make its central narrative so diffuse. Directed by Catalina Matamoros, an award-winning animator and illustrator from Colombia, the short uses a minimalist black-and-white aesthetic to tell the story of a girl, her family, and their journey to cross the border to reunite with her mom.
Leaving behind dialogue and exposition, the abstract short focuses instead on metaphor-filled images that capture such a dizzying journey from the point of view of a confused little girl. “Smuggling” is here treated not just as a shorthand but as a visual metaphor. Men, women, and children are grabbed by giant hands and shoved into boxes marked “Ship to the USA.” Similarly, “coyotes” are represented as the animals that give them their name, while those protecting the border are quite literally trigger-ready guns. With a restrained score by Alexis & Sam, Matamoros’ short is a nightmarish impressionistic portrait of the dehumanizing rhetoric that still dominates much of our immigration conversation. Child-like in its sketches this arresting animated tale is nonetheless a sobering story worth watching. Check it out in full below.