Economic migration is a subject that I wrote about when I blogged Marc Silver and Gael Garcia Bernal’s documentary Who Is Dayani Cristal (2013) which unlike The Golden Dream (2013) was about those poor souls that do not make it alive across the Mexican border into America to start a new life. This new movie by Spanish born Mexican director Diego Quemada-Diez is a feature film that looks at the ever-worsening situation from the viewpoint of teenagers but still highlighting the criminalisation of the migrants just for the terrible crime of wanting a better life. This movie could so easily be a documentary as the story is based on real life testimonies collected over a six-year period. The complete cast are non-actors with Quemada-Diez carefully choosing his non-professional main leads with the remainder of the cast being local people.
Its Spanish title is La Jaula de Oro that basically translates as The Gage of Gold, which is how the migrants refer to America, the great dream that has a pot of gold at the end of it for all who make it across the ‘border’ into the vast capitalist wasteland that is the USA. This is why so many try to make it across this inhumane, man-made border. There are allegedly 15 million migrants working under the equivalent of modern slavery without any form of documentation, a grand supply of cheap labour that may pay tax but have no rights! 500000 migrants are locked up in American prisons.
|The journey away from poverty is a dream!|
We are shown, in quite graphic detail, the hardships that these people encounter even before they get anywhere near the crossing point. When we first meet the three youngsters they are living their poverty-stricken no hope lives in Guatemala. Juan, Samuel and of course Sara, who has attempted to disguise herself as a boy, all set out with their dreams intact. Chauk, a young Indian who cannot speak Spanish, joins them on their travels. Quemada-Diez concentrates on these four characters and the viewer is invited to become an observer and empathise with the trials and tribulations of this long journey from the children’s home country across Mexico to the States. Travelling mainly on the top of goods trains along with many others who are on the same journey, all of who are constantly being taken advantage of, exploited, robbed and beaten.
|Sara has to disguise herself as a male to give her any chance of fulfilling her dream of a better life.|
The film mirrors their journey; periods of boredom sitting atop of a train in searing heat with little or nothing to eat and drink are intercepted with periods of extreme action. The director admits to being influenced by the British social realism movement, filmmakers like Andrea Arnold and Lyne Ramsey but mainly by Ken Loach who Quemada-Diez had worked with on his Spanish Civil War drama, Land and Freedom (1995), and it shows in the finished product. By the end of the film you would honestly question if the hardships of the migrants have been worth it or have they just exchanged a poverty that they know for poverty they don’t know. Is there really a Golden Dream at the end of the rainbow? Certainly not on this evidence.
|The man made border!|
Just a point, if all countries were equal and wealth was shared would there be any need for borders? The director lays the blame for the complete situation well and truly at the door of the USA claiming in an interview that ‘free trade agreements with the US, combined with decades of intervention and destabilisation in Central America, have caused profound inequality, poverty and violence, provoking millions to flee north’. There is an awful lot more to this movie than I have described and I would not want to spoil it for those of you that want to see this highly recommended piece of cinematic reality.