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The Infinite Border, Juan Manuel Sepúlveda's documentary about the migrant experience, is haunting and thoughtful and it draws us further south than usual, to Central America and the millions of people there who begin a long journey to the United States (or so they hope). Most of the migrants never reach their destination and with so many borders to pass and obstacles to overcome they find themselves deported, imprisoned or even mutilated by the trains they attempt to jump. Their lives must be misery to risk death but it made me wonder if any of these people might choose to stay at home and try to improve conditions — even the most poor and uneducated subjects are eloquent and intelligent about their lives and struggles.
The people are all optimistic, vowing to keep trying until they arrive at their destination if God wills it. This is a more stylized documentary with many long long shots, especially of people waiting — for trains or busses, or waiting on top of trains for that train to finally get somewhere. Hundreds of people hang off every train — where are they going and how do they think they’ll arrive? There is no answer.
Allis and Charley were one screwed up couple. Morgan Dews made Must Read After my Death about his grandparents from hundreds of hours of home movies and from hundreds of hours of tapes and records Allis made while in therapy. Some of these were correspondence with her husband when he was on business but most are deeply personal and explore the hell of her family life and the way she fought against her role as housewife. Dews only knew his grandmother as a wonderful woman who was fun and full of love — he was too young to remember life when Charley was alive. And, according to Dews and his uncle Bruce who were both at the screening, Allis lived a different life after her husband died (under slightly mysterious circumstances) and she never spoke of him.
It’s too easy to blame Charley for all of the family trauma but it does become clear that his use of alcohol was the major factor which made their lives so difficult. Allis and Charley had four kids and a house in the suburbs but beneath the superficial middle American trappings, the couple railed against conformity and experimented with new technologies and new social practices. They had an open marriage and they were deeply involved with psychiatry, to their great detriment.
It was a pleasure to hear the thoughts of one of their sons, who they inexplicably committed to a mental institution when he was fourteen. Bruce bears no grudge though and is happy and well-adjusted, as are the other surviving siblings. Philip Larkin was definitely right when he wrote “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” but this is one childhood we should all be happy to have escaped.