We've now been able to screen Lourdes Lee Vasquez' The Immigration Paradox, which premièred in Phoenix in September. Though lengthy and sometimes a bit eye-glazy with legitimate sociohistorical info, the film's thought-provoking and beautifully shot. Whether it leaves you in hope or despair about the human tendency to exploit one another probably will depend on you.
The doc will show in a limited engagement at FilmBar, at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, November 17 (open to audiences 21 and older and followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers), and 2 p.m. Sunday, November 18 (open to general audiences).
Lee Vasquez narrates the film as her own journey of awareness. Her own life experiences predisposed her to support the cause of undocumented Mexican immigrants to the U.S., to believe "God was on our side," as she says.
But as she attended more protests and demonstrations in the wake of the Arizona Legislature passing SB1070, she noticed that the pro-immigrant side was prone to display as much anger and yelling as its "enemies" did. She crossed the police line and began listening to and interviewing a wider variety of people affected by the issue.
Though Lee Vasquez patiently manages to make all her subjects appear to be intelligent humans with dignity, all of whom are hampered one way or another by insularity and ignorance, it seems pretty obvious that although she'd prefer no one have to take sides, she still feels deep down that God is on hers. And I don't have trouble with a documentarian being biased -- find one who isn't. She does her best to respect the points of view of scapegoaters and Tea Partiers, but evidence to support their concerns seems slim.
One thing I appreciated was Lee Vasquez' humility about how much she herself had to learn, but she may be oversharing that to the detriment of the film's message. For example, she interviews representatives of three or four nonprofit think tanks, assuming they'll be more objective than the media, before she reveals her surprise that they aren't. (Documenting what appears to be every step in her research is also one of the things that make the movie about two hours long.)
At about the midway point, the film launches an epic overview of how our hunter-gatherer species became productive enough that we were no longer fundamentally equal in economic power. It's been all downhill from there, as a handful of developed nations eventually exploited the rest of the planet into poverty.
By the time Lee Vasquez gets to the International Monetary Fund and Structural Adjustment Programs, I'd lost hope that I can do anything about it -- which I don't think is the impression I was supposed to receive. She also states that the Republican Party draws its "organizational muscle from highly organized, church-based groups," which, if true (and it might be), I was unaware of -- I'm not entirely sure she clearly comprehended everything she learned, but such glitches were rare.
However, if your blood sugar stays up and you can swing your focus back to your own corner of the universe, there's a lot to consider here. When people say, "X is just a symptom; Y is the real problem," they're often ignoring Z -- and addressing Z would really lift the veil from your eyes.
FilmBar is at 815 North 2nd Street, 602-595-9187. Admission to The Immigration Paradox is $12 for the Saturday showing and post-show discussion, or $7 for the film only on Sunday; you can order advance tickets here or get them at the door.