Jake Mosher, E23 Staffer

On the final day of the Citizen Jane Festival, “Hermanos” was the second film shown at Talking Horse Productions. The small theater, similar to the movie shown before this one, was almost full. The director of the documentary, Laura Plancarte, was present for the showing. Her film presents two personal narratives of survival and the fight for a better life.

Talking Horse Productions’ entry area during the 2018 Citizen Jane Film Festival. Photographed by Jake Mosher, E23 Staffer.

The first story focuses on Chato and Chuy, two brothers living in Mexico, who want to return to the United States after being deported for life. Their mother left them when they were young with the hope of finding a better life for her kids. Instead, she has lived a life of poverty, and has not seen her kids since.

The other story focuses on Vanessa, a former Miss America contestant, who lost her home and hopes to achieve a better life, through both hard work and Trump’s campaign promises. The documentary jumps between both of these stories with other interviews interspersed throughout.

The documentary is beautifully shot. From the mountains of Montana to the shots of the border between the two countries, the scenery evokes emotions that complement the story. Though, there were a few staged scenes that felt out of place in the rest of the documentary.

The subjects themselves act like characters in a movie. During the Q&A, one woman in the crowd even asked if the director staged them to say certain things. This attests to the time and thought Plancarte put into choosing her subjects. They are intriguing, personal, unique and most importantly, entertaining. Yes, documentaries are supposed to be informative, but to hold an audience’s attention, it must also be interesting and enjoyable to watch..

The Talking Horse Theater during the screening of “Hermanos” for the 2018 Citizen Jane Film Festival. Photographed by E23 Staffer Jake Mosher.

In the Q&A after the documentary, Plancarte described the subjects’ love for the camera. She said it was hard to get Vanessa to open up and not assume the role of an actress in front of the camera. On occasion, she’d even leave the camera running without Vanessa’s knowledge, hoping to obtain an honest, vulnerable response.

Vanessa was not the only one attracted to the camera. Plancarte talked about Chato’s love for the filming process and his resulting sadness once the whole process was over.

In our current political climate, the film provides a fresh perspective on Mexican-American relations. Instead of focusing on the differences or issues between our nations and people, Plancarte strives to show some similarities.

It takes a unique approach, humanizing the drug-running brothers and the conservative Trump supporter. It tries to highlight the similarities between the two subjects: their idealized thoughts about the “American Dream” and their damaged relationships with their parents.

The documentary both succeeds and fails in this approach. I felt like I was watching two completely different documentaries. Even though there were commonalities in their lives, Plancarte’s message was not fully developed due to the way she presented them. Survival and family are necessities in both stories, but they were not paralleled effectively.

It’s unfortunate that not everyone will get to experience the Q&A, as having Plancarte there to express her vision fixed most of my issues with the film. She openly compared the two storylines, adding more anecdotes and her reasoning behind why she chose her subjects. Her goal of finding hope and a start to reconciliation in two very different backgrounds is much better expressed with her own words.

“Hermanos” attempts to break down the borders of today with a refreshing look on immigration and the “American Dream.” It mostly succeeds, depicting two, genuinely honest, human storylines, but it falls a tad short in conveying the message of finding hope in our differences. “Hermanos” seemed to garner a positive response from the audience as the director received a standing ovation once the credits finished rolling.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,