Road to Nowhere: Gabriel Hernandez’ Journey
Javier Clorio’s video documentary profiles undocumented Mexican immigrant Gabriel Hernandez’ unsuccessful attempt to make a better life for himself and his family in the United States.
Road to Nowhere poses a memorable question to its international audience: would you risk your life for the chance to earn ten to thirty times your current salary?
Many Mexican nationals considering legal or illegal migration north to the United States face that dilemma. Through profiling the Hernandez family and focusing in on the economic conditions where they live, filmmaker Javier Clorio presents immigration as more of a pragmatic than a cultural or societal issue. People, whether immigrants or native born Americans, tend to seek out the best available work to support themselves and their families.
For Gabriel Hernandez, that meant choosing the difficult life of a California day laborer rather than staying in Mexico and selling flowers to passersby. Told in his own words, with Clorio filming the family and their simple home, the story contains some surprising, powerful moments. How Hernandez appreciated the food, shelter, and educational opportunities he found while incarcerated in the USA for a crime he swears he did not commit. The fragile solace praying to occult icon Santa Muerte provides him, and the resigned desperation behind his requests. The tension prolonged separation causes for marriages and families when men travel north alone to work, which Clorio presents with compassion and sensitivity.
Clorio presents the desperation of Mexico City’s working classes with the sensibility of a citizen-journalist. Many scenes come across as if he simply walked through town carrying his camera, viewing the cityscape on any random day, stopping whenever he encountered police, street vendors, or any illustrative moment. And it is those panoramic shots of the metropolis which best drive home the points he expresses through statistics – the sense of just how many people live in Mexico, and what it means for high percentages of them to go without adequate education or employment.
Tighter, more attentive filmmaking would strengthen the piece, as sometimes the statistics seem off-center on the screen and at one point the camera shakes, making viewing difficult. Also, organizing the documentary around the emerging themes of faith, family, intercultural communication, and the American/human dream for a better life, with a nod at the middle and the end to what gets discussed at the beginning would make the piece more cohesive.
Road to Nowhere explores root causes for poverty in Mexico through interviews on the street: widespread illiteracy, an inadequate educational system, government corruption and inefficiency. Many impoverished adults never finished elementary school, dropping out to work and help support their families. And the focus on the Hernandez family brought together the personal and the sociological aspects of the piece, showing how statistics affect real people.
Javier Clorio’s documentary left me wondering how we could raise the standard of living for Mexico’s poorest residents, and pointed towards education as a large part of that answer. Clorio’s cityscape pulses with people, many carrying babies and small children. Perhaps if we can teach those children to read and write, and prepare them for the emerging job market, the Road to Nowhere might lead somewhere worthwhile, for immigrants and those who remain in Mexico.
YouTube hosts a trailer for Road to Nowhere – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDeXX5deqLc
You may also order the film directly from Clorio by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org