(in this series we present five short films selected by the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival)
This is an important time in America. This country has always been blanketed under the hypocrisy of touting itself as the “land of the free” and one where “all men are created equal,” while our government creates policies and procedures to ensure that people of color and any minority are kept down and aren’t allowed the luxury of the same freedoms.
Racism has always been a large part of what makes the sullied fabric of the United States and that is a sad truth. The time of slavery, the genocide of the American Indian, the Civil Rights movement of the sixties and the Jim Crow South, segregation, post-September 11th attacks on the Muslim communities; this is what true Americans who believe in the Constitution fight against.
Over the past few years, racism bubbled over from its boiling cauldron and has, once again, spilled into our streets. Never have we had an administration so hellbent on walking back liberalized immigration policies achieved after much ebbing and flowing, ever since the first wave of Chinese immigration in the middle of the nineteenth century. So much so that the leader of the free world uses his platform not to unite Americans but to stoke the flames of bigotry inside so many and ignite the fire of discrimination to burn it into our everyday lives, making it commonplace.
As the short film “Gets good light” would have it, the immigration unit known as ICE should be compared to a modern-day Gestapo because of their relentless pursuit of people living in this country without citizenship. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…” means nothing to this administration nor its goon squad, seems to be the film’s underlying message. ICE raids businesses, in an attempt to harass and detain hard-working immigrants who have heard this country’s call to be free, only to be betrayed by a corrupted system.
“Gets Good Light” confronts this issue head-on and in less than thirty minutes’ running time makes a powerful statement, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions.
Edmond Cofe plays Andrell, a man who walks through a world filled with shrugged-off racism and bigotry. He works three jobs to earn enough money to right a long-ago wrong in which his grandfather was scammed out of his own house during the gentrification of his neighborhood. In a particularly moving scene, Andrell explains how he is not working so many jobs to obtain wealth. He is seeking justice for his grandfather and, with one of his jobs being in real estate, is trying to strike a blow against class structure and the profiteering and exploitation of the financially weak.
Andrell has a friend who is in the country illegally. Manny (Cedric Leiba, Jr.) is a family man who works hard for his wife and daughter and hopes someday to become a citizen.
The two men work in the same restaurant. One night, after closing, two ICE agents appear, looking for Manny. Manny was targeted due to a DUI from years earlier. Andrell hides Manny and is interrogated by the two officers. When they see that they will not find Manny inside, they turn the interrogation upon Andrell who is forced to show his papers.
The two agents are portrayed as smug, cold, and threatening. They just want an arrest. To them, likely, any person of color from another country will do. From what we have seen in news reports and footage, this is the reality of these types of situations and this film will suffer no fools in its presentation of the truth.
In just a few scenes and moments of dialogue, the devastation that our broken immigration policies and harmful pursuit of hard-working immigrants has on families and a person’s very soul become evident.
The filmmakers blanket each scene with calm and still camera placement and fill their frames with images that represent the distance and repression of the racial and class structures that exist in real-time.
Writer Daniel Sole and director Alejandra Parody make it clear that their job is not to offer any answers to this dangerous and immediate issue. They are here to present the issue through this small, but far from simple, story. They want their film to make it very clear that this is a human rights issue that is no longer destroying this country from the inside, but from all sides.
A nation built by the hands of immigrants is doing everything it can to let them know they are unwelcome. With their powerfully moving short film, Parody and Sole are warning that the future is looking bleak and that we all need to wake up to the reality that the so-called “American Dream” is on the ropes and living on borrowed time.
(please note: the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication)