Marc Silver and Gael Garcia Bernal have partnered with Amnesty International to make four compelling short films that highlight the journey tens of thousands of people take every year from Central and South America, through Mexico, and onward north in the hopes of reaching the United States. People who are driven by poverty and a dearth of economic opportunity and social support in their own countries, take this trip motivated by hope and the basic need to provide for their families. As the films recount, along the way they encounter dire, life-threatening risks. This journey is one of the most dangerous in the world.
Watch all four films on their dedicated youtube page (in Spanish, and in Spanish with English subtitles.) Watch the first film in the series, Seaworld, here:
community-centered narrative, a commitment to aesthetic resonance, and to tying content directly to action.
First, the films and the action campaign are created through a collaboration of established entities, but the campaign's foundation is community-centered storytelling that builds context through narrative. The migrants directly tell us their own stories--ones that show the human side of the issues and create a narrative thread directly through to underlying issues, demonstrating the actual cost to individuals of human rights issues, poor economic systems and the lack of community-building societal structures. They tell their stories as they want, and they are depicted with the respect they as participants in this campaign merit.
This respect shines through not only from the storytelling itself, but also because the filmmakers have invested in creating aesthetically engaging content. The creation of four individual, yet aligned short films that place importance on the form of the films as well as their function grounds these films and the issues that are depicted in both "activism" and "film making": This is film making that advances the art of activism through a deep, precise attention to the art of storytelling.
Finally, the films' platform is built to create a direct link between the films and the campaign, making the content a conduit to action, even before the films' launch. During interviews with migrants, Amnesty International registered the experience of abuses against the migrants. Following the films' release, both Amnesty and the filmmakers, through the Resist Network, are moving to use the film in policy advocacy-- for example, Amnesty is using the films during the Global Forum on Migration and Development to call on the Mexican government to "establish a clear action plan and to collect and publish nationwide data on abuses against migrants and on the action taken to hold those responsible to account."
This campaign is evidence that the best way to create and reach an audience, and to subsequently turn them into committed participants engaged in dialogue and activism, is to create aesthetically excellent, engaging film making and digital media. And finally, this series of films provides a concrete sense of the spirit and resilience that underlies the migrants' despair-- and due to this, among many other reasons, these are people you can't ignore.
[Disclosure: I am a partner on the social engagement strategy team for the Resist Network, one of the partners in creating these films. I am not a member of the films' production team.]