We are at an…interesting moment in the debate about immigration in the U.S. For years it’s clearly been an issue that needs to be addressed in some way or another since the tide shifted from those coming from across the Atlantic Ocean to those coming over the country’s southern border. Without getting into the actual politics of this, the opinions run the gamut from “yeah, let them in legally” to “we need to build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it” and, as usual, the right answer likely lies somewhere in-between the extremes.
This week’s new movie Desierto is a drama that uses illegal immigration as the setting for a personal, intimate thriller. Gael García Bernal is Moises, someone trying to come over the border with a group of others in an effort to reunite with his son. But the group he’s part of has the bad luck of crossing in an area patrolled by Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a vigilante who’s not part of any actual law enforcement group but has taken it upon himself to shoot anyone he deems to be breaking the law by trying to enter the country.
The one-sheet works hard to establish the setting for the story and create some allure in the eyes of movie fans. The main image is just a rocky, barren landscape with desert brush in the foreground. Along the ridge a sole figure is walking away from the camera so we’re very clearly told there’s going to be a survivalist aspect to the story.
Almost as big as the title treatment is the note that the movie comes “From the visionary filmmakers that brought you Grafity,” an effort to sell the audience on the movie having at least some prestige pedigree as opposed to it being just kind of a March cast-off.
We start out in the trailer by meeting a group of immigrants moving across the Mexican/U.S. border, focusing on one father who’s on his way to see his son. Soon we see there’s a man shooting at the group, seeming just for the fun of it. From there it’s a chase between the armed hunter and a pair of immigrants who are trying to survive not just him but also the wildness of the desert and everything that’s there. It’s clear, particularly from the montage toward the end, there will be twists and turns and that it doesn’t really turn out well for everyone, which isn’t surprising.
It’s a good trailer that promises a tight tale of survival. It’s not clear at all from the trailer whether or not the movie gets into the politics behind what Morgan’s hunter is doing or if it stays focused on the story of hunting – and being hunted – without some big political speechifying.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website is pretty simple and sparse but it has what it needs to try and sell it without putting a ton of unnecessary effort into things. All you’ll find there is the trailer, a synopsis and cast list in the “About the Film” section and a “Gallery” that just has two images in it. There appears to have been similarly minimal effort put into the movie’s Facebook page as well as the Twitter and Instagram profiles, all of which feature a half-dozen or fewer posts.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nada that I’ve come across.
Media and Publicity
The movie made its debut at last year’s Toronto Film Festival where it got decent reviews and some word-of-mouth from that, but that’s about it. It came up a bit when Cuaron was announced as the writer and director of an updated version of Zorro, but that’s about as close as it came to a big press push.
The movie is certainly timely, which makes the lack of a bigger press push all the more surprising. This is a big topic in much of the media and the larger societal conversations as the U.S. goes through what could charitably described as a contentious presidential campaign. And it certainly appears that, while the core of the story is a stalker-type thriller, the movie has a strong point of view on the topic of immigration.
I wasn’t impressed by the trailer the first time I saw it but repeated viewings made the movie seem more attractive. The campaign, which isn’t full-throated by any regard, sells a movie that tries to boil down an issue that’s generated so much controversy to a more human one by presenting an extreme, taking the fiery rhetoric of one side of the argument and presenting it’s ultimate fantasy of a lone right-thinking individual and contrasting it with the other extreme, a man who just wants to bring his family back together. It looks like it could be compelling, presuming these argument analog character don’t devolve into caricature.