Immigration is a burning issue in the North, whether Europe or the US, but very seldom do we come across a film which tells the stories of poor migrants, never mind in such a poignant and gritty way.
The four main protagonists of Diego Quemada-Diez’s new film, ‘The Golden Dream’ (‘La Jaula de Oro’), are played by non-professional actors and each of them creates powerful characters that stay in the memory long after the film has finished. Credit goes to the filming process that Quemada-Diez used in making this piece. Filmed chronologically, the actors only knew the story from day to day and, through improvisation and semi-rehearsals, the action developed.
Through this process, the director also learned much from his actors.
We don’t know why the four particularly wanted to leave Guatemala for the journey north but their reasons are the reasons of the thousands of people who make their way slowly and painfully towards the border between Mexico and the US. Those that make it that far are the lucky ones – or are they?
In carrying out more than 600 interviews over more than six years with people that have made all or part of the journey, as well as those not making the journey but intimately caught up with their journeys, including border patrol staff, immigration officials, railroad staff, police etc., the director has created a work which could be described as the story of all poor Central America migrants. What happens here has happened and continues to happen to greater, or lesser degrees to all those who attempt the journey.
The film highlights the stark realities for the poor in the journey to El Norte. The corruption, the lawlessness, the violence, the exploitation and the sheer helplessness of people on their journey make us wonder, ‘what is it that pushes people to leave their families, their homes, their communities, so much that they are willing to make this journey’? Maybe we should examine the structural aspects at play in the globalised world when another migrant-hating story hits the media.
When the film screened in New York to an audience which included many immigrants, they explained through their tears how cathartic the experience was of watching their story being told.
Quemada-Diez is quiet and softly spoken and he worked with Ken Loach on several of his films. He learned much from the British director and has created a film which utilises a naturalistic and social realist directing style to superb effect.
The director and ensemble cast won an award in the Un Certain Regard category at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and ‘The Golden Dream’ is opening in the UK on Friday 27th June 2014. It is well worth catching.