WWW: “The Invisibles,” or a Documentary on Contemporary Immigration

2014-09-12_The-InvisiblesThis weekend is the second annual ¡Cine Magnífico! Albuquerque Latino Film Festival here in New Mexico – which means we at the Latin American & Iberian Institute are focused on Latino films and filmmakers.  With so much discussion happening around the upcoming film screenings, it seemed only natural for us to use this WWW post as an opportunity to highlight some of the ways that movies and documentaries can be used in the classrooms.  Furthermore, given that it’s Hispanic Heritage Month, we thought it prudent to draw your attention to a resource that can be used to complement discussions about historic and contemporary Hispanic experiences.

With this in mind, we’re pleased to share with you a remarkable documentary project that features individual stories.  In 2011, the well-known actor Gael García Bernal partnered with filmmaker Marc Silva to produce a series of short films (each approximately 10 minutes with English subtitles) that document a piece of the struggle that many undocumented, or “invisible,” migrants endure as they leave Central America to come to the United States.  The project succinctly considers the narratives of the “tens of thousands of women, men and children [who] travel through Mexico without legal permission. As “invisible” migrants they head for the US border in the hope of finding a new life far from poverty they’ve left behind. Their journey is one of the most dangerous in the world.”   In effect, the production helps to make “visible” the undocumented immigrants whose individual lives are so often overlooked by the mainstream media’s coverage of current immigration patterns.

Bernals’ work is short, free, and available entirely online.  I don’t offer it here as a comprehensive framework for a conversation about immigration; rather, it’s a good starting point, or a good supplement to other resources.  Back in 2012 when Katrina highlighted “Resources for using film in the classroom,” she wrote that “films can be an amazing way to add depth to a curriculum unit or thematic study.  Often times, I found I didn’t even have to show the entire film–just a few clips could get my students interested and engaged.”  This is the sentiment behind our highlighting Bernal’s work: a little can go a long way.  These are short but powerful segments, which means they’ll likely impact your students both intellectually and emotionally.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the following resources:

  • “The Invisibles” Channel on YouTube has all of the videos compiled in one area.
  • An NPR segment in 2011 explains more about the project through an interview with Bernal.
  • Bernal created the film in part as a response to an Amnesty International report that documented human rights abuses against migrants in Mexico.The Amnesty International website explains the report briefly, and provides supplementary resources (including a photo archive and direct action suggestions) for those who use the film.
  • The University of North Carolina’s School of Education has developed a brief but useful guide to support “Teaching Latin America through Film.”

Image: The Invisibles. Reprinted from Otro Mundo es Posible.

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