More than 2,600 kids were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy. That staggering statistic, courtesy of Reveal, is enough to get you riled up about the cruel immigration policies that the current administration has been doling out in the last two years. But such a number can remain too abstract. This is why journalists like Aura Bogado work to ground them in specific stories. After learning of detention centers being run by DMV, a defense contractor — and researching the deplorable conditions kids there had to contend with — Bogado set out to talk to some of the children who’d been held there to get a first person account. That’s how she found Wilson, a six-year old boy from Guatemala.
The Office of Missing Children, an animated documentary short produced and directed by Michael I Schiller and based on Bogado’s reporting, tells the story of Wilson and his mother Tonita. With a monochromatic aesthetic that moves from the dusty yellows of the open road to the chilly blues of the detention center, the etched sketches in the short film put us squarely in Wilson and Tonita’s mindsets. We see them traveling away from their home country in the hopes of seeking asylum at the US border. There, they’re sent to the “icebox” (“la hielera”) before being separated.
Hearing the two talk about their living conditions as we see animated images of their experiences is enough to anger you into action. Theirs, though, is but the tip of the iceberg. “Through our reporting, we’ve uncovered stories about physical and sexual abuse, forced drugging, and holding children in offices that aren’t even licensed for childcare,” Bogado told Remezcla. “These stories need to be amplified because they give us a window into the kinds of injustice that some of the most marginalized people – in this case, asylum-seeking children – are experiencing under this administration.”
One of the main aspects of The Office of Missing Children which makes it stand out is its bilingual subtitles. The doc is targeted at English and Spanish-speakers in equal measure. Additionally, as Bogado noted, the choice of animating Wilson’s story allows the short to reacher a wider audience than a live-action report would have: “an animation allows children to be an audience in a way that text, podcast or video alone doesn’t satisfy.”
Check out the full short film below and the rest of Bogado’s reporting package over at Reveal.