This is a documentary. It is not a political statement. Which Way Home is an honest observation of children aged anywhere from 8 to 17 traveling alone or with small groups that consist only of others their own age and facing similar predicaments. The Destination: the United States of America. To get to this land of prosperity and potential employment (many of these children simply wish to find better work so they can send money home to help support their parents, brothers, and sisters) they must travel over 1,450 miles. Stop for a moment and think about this sad fact -- these are children risking their lives. This film wishes to bring that point home to any viewer regardless of individual politics (right wing or left wing).
These kids are coming from all over Mexico as well as other areas of Central America. The traveling takes place primarily aboard a freight train called "The Best" by those who ride atop it. Many have died simply from falling off the train and being crushed by the mechanics of it during these travels. If only that was the main obstacle. Many of these children will also be forced to cross a desert to get to their destination. Along the way they will also be placed in an unsafe environment. Those who go with smugglers might wind up being raped and killed (even boys), and others will be sold into slavery instead of being helped across to a better life in America.
This is a heartbreaking documentary to watch. I cried several times during the film. I am teary-eyed simply writing about what I witnessed. At one moment in the film, these documentary film-makers interviewed someone who was involved in security for border control. This man detailed how horrific it has been for him to find dead bodies and human bones around the border and even he became visibly upset by thinking about the situation.
We meet many different youths during and throughout the documentary. There are two very young children, in particular, who might strike a chord with many viewers. They are both around 8 years old (brother and sister) and are trying to get to America to find their parents. At one moment, the girl begins to cry when describing how she wants to see her Mom again - it has been three years since she last saw her.
This is a first-rate documentary largely in part to the eye-opening nature of what is presented. The film raises questions and discusses issues that most of us don't usually think about. It may be that these situations are not discussed frequently largely due to a lack of awareness. Which Way Home raises the level of awareness in spades by presenting the stories through the eyes of these children - they are the interviewees as they travel towards America.
I encourage readers to seek this documentary out and to tell others about the film. We can only find solutions to these issues by continuing to raise awareness of them. The more people that know about the hardships faced by such young children, the more people will want to help find ways to help change the situation. If you are a parent, can you imagine your child traveling over 1,000 miles alone (as disturbing as that thought surely is)?
I am not a parent. I can only state that I know that when I was just a young child I would have felt completely helpless and alone, and I doubt I would have found the strength to persevere. This film drives one point home quite clearly: that these children should not be faced with such situations alone.
Keep expectations in check. This film looks like it has been shot with average at best digital camcorders. It is not a visually 'stunning' film in that regard and as a result it never will be. The transfer does seem to appropriately reproduce the product as it was created though and in that regard this release manages to excel. Please note that the 1:85:1 transfer is presented with anamorphic enhancement.
The audio presentation is surprisingly good for a documentary filmed with circumstances one might assume as being hindrances to capturing good audio. While the audio is only available as a 2.0 track the sound more than gets the job done for this kind of material. There were never any moments in the film where I had trouble discerning speech and that's what matters the most here given the surrounding backdrops (such as trains). The score is also well defined and enhances the experience with what is often surprisingly lush music.
The only extras included are deleted scenes. Some of these scenes represent extensions to what was already show in the documentary film. These are interesting additions to view at least once but given the strength of the film on its own merits these additional moments may feel unnecessary to some.
Which Way Home is one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen, and it opened my eyes to an issue I never quite understood or recognized as existing. It is an important film that should be seen as a tool to teaching others about immigration issues and the hardships facing youth in Mexico. Highly Recommended.
you would like to help the children featured in the
film (and others like them) please make sure to visit the film's
website at whichwayhome.net.