By John Travis
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The Invisibles

This article is over 11 years, 6 months old
Directors Marc Silver and Gael García Bernal, Out now
Issue 353

Amnesty International’s latest documentary, The Invisibles, is a four-part series on the journey of Central American immigrants through Mexico to the US. Directed by Marc Silver and Mexican film star Gael García Bernal, The Invisibles is best described as a string of intimate video portraits that chronicle first hand accounts of the abuses, dangers and sometimes help that immigrants encounter in their roughly 1,500-mile adventure across Mexico.

The Invisibles in its entirety clocks in at under half an hour. Part one, Seaworld, deals mostly with kidnappings at the hands of gangs: you will survive only if you are lucky enough to know someone who can pay the ransom. Part two is titled after the number of women who will be sexually abused in their journey, Six out of Ten. The third part, What Remains, covers the news that families may or may not hear of their missing children, siblings and relatives. This news is all too often the photographic remains of a corpse needing to be identified. The final part, Goal, summarises the implications of building walls that cannot keep people out, though it falls short of mentioning the greater international trade policies which keep immigrants on the move in the first place.

The abuse of these immigrants is not limited to just the physical, nor is it always at the hands of thugs and gangs: Mexican federales are implicated in this film as being complicit in the kidnappings and extortion. Priests describe the role of the church in helping people move across the country, at times hopping from safe haven to safe haven. Some postulate on what life in the US must be like, while others recount the horrors of the physical abuse, torture and murder of their friends and fellow migrants. This is often accomplished through the medium of still portraits with voiceovers.

In this short half hour The Invisibles accomplishes what most mainstream media never even attempt – to put a human face on what is normally described as one of the most pressing issues facing the US, a “problem” that is more often than not described in terms of numbers, costs and figures. There are hardly any numbers or stats, pros or cons in this documentary – it is rather a chance for you to meet these immigrants and hear their stories.

The Invisibles is really a testimony to what can be accomplished with a $1,500 camera, a little bit of star power and a desire to know some of those immigrants who risk their lives for a better life in the north.

Readers may be interested to watch the independent film Sin Nombre, which also covers the subject of Central American migration to the US. The Invisibles is currently available online only, here.

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