WHAT IT’S ABOUT: During Obama’s rule, a group of young people who have lived in the US all their lives but are not citizens decide to infiltrate a deportation facility and help the people inside. They get arrested, which sometimes proves more complicated than it seems, then placed into ICE detention to await deportation, and start befriending the other inmates to put them in touch with lawyers. An unbelievable true story is presented in a hybrid narrative/documentary format, where actors recreate the past events, and the real participants comment on them.
WHO MADE IT: Co-director Alex Rivera had been previously working in the genre of American futurism around the themes of immigration. The fit is perfect: the story behind “The Infiltrators” is a visionary look at how activism can evolve with the advance of technology and interconnectedness. Cristina Ibarra, the other co-director, had been less prominent in the past but also focused her work on immigration. Meanwhile, the activists depicted and featured in the film are all real-life Americans without papers, members of National Immigrant Youth Alliance.
WHY DO WE CARE: As immigrants ourselves, we’re fascinated with how the system works in the US. At the core of “The Infiltrators” is a story of a rebellious political act, but also a powerfully satiric exploration of the system’s ridiculous, harmful set-up through what almost becomes actionist art. We also really appreciate the fact that the film opens up the angle of looking at the issues with the Immigration and Customs Authority. While definitely pushed into the horror genre territory by ’Trump’s rule, US immigration was a heartbreaking affair before that, too. And because “The Infiltrators” focuses on ’Obama’s time, before immigration was a cool issue for white liberal Americans to get angry about, the film manages to communicate the most essential truth: there is no humane way to control immigration.
WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: “The Infiltrators” is satisfying in many ways, partly because the real story is so badass, partly because the topic is so timely. The subjects of the film are all DACA Dreamers, childhood arrivals to the US, who are American in all but the lack of papers. Watching them risk their own precarious situations to help other immigrants, who may be less aware or connected, is absolutely riveting. Even if the reenactments are supposed to offer some distance, the docudrama aspect clearly dissipates, leaving the viewer with an urgent, incredibly well-written, infuriating, and funny film. In fact, we’re surprised “The Infiltrators” is not being featured at screenings, on streaming services and in immigration discussions more prominently. Maybe there are distribution issues, maybe the makers are mum in preparation for something huge: who knows. But watching this film is a political act in itself. An act that will not take as much sacrifice as the events it portrays: so you have no excuse not to see it.
The Infiltrators, 2019
Directors: Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra
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