Marrakech - The passages from Exodus a woman is reading announce a journey fraught of uncertainty. The tribe, a group of immigrants crammed in the back of an aging truck, has in common that they are fleeing a land become barren and unwelcoming to its own kin.
Marrakech – The passages from Exodus a woman is reading announce a journey fraught of uncertainty. The tribe, a group of immigrants crammed in the back of an aging truck, has in common that they are fleeing a land become barren and unwelcoming to its own kin.
In the middle of the desert, as any one with minimal initiation to film discourse would have expected, the truck breaks down. The journey has to be completed on foot. As one would also guess not all will be able to make it and the desert will be haunted by all kinds of hunters and predators.
The clandestine passengers are unloaded in the middle of nowhere. Their destiny is entrusted to two ruthless guides. The moment they trespass the razor wire and enter US territory, a cowboy-like man who seems to know the whereabouts very well shoots a rabbit. He and his dog live in an all-terrain off-road truck. To an immigration patrol officer who asks him about what he’s doing in the place, he says he is hunting. To the question whether he had a permit to hunt, he answers he didn’t know one was needed to hunt to which the officer acquiesced. The manhunt can now start.
As the group runs to hide in the bushes, it becomes clear that some will have difficulties keeping up with the pace. While taking a short rest, nostalgia has already made its way into their hearts as they tell each other about their previous experiences trying to cross or in the U.S. before they were sent back home. A man hassles a young woman who could be the age of his daughter. A young man with a red cap intervenes to make him stop. We will learn later that her father had paid him to look after her during the trip and that he had abused her in ways too painful to talk about.
When they resume the walk, an overweight young man, the young woman and the man accompanying her and a few others lag behind. The guide would not wait for them despite their pleas. The young man with the red cap does.
The cowboy-like man in the all-terrain truck finds a scarf a member of the group had dropped. He makes the dog smell and sets him to go find and kill. The man avers to be a hunter not of rabbits but of immigrants. He has a good sight from the top of the hill. In cold blood, he aims and shoots them one by one starting with the guide. He hates them for invading his “home”. He screams with joy as he sees he had decimated the group. Those who lagged behind watch it all from their hiding.
The dog trails the others, chases them in the hill and kills those he catches. Obviously, he us trained to kill. He traces those he cannot get to and barks their position to his master who shoots them like sitting ducks. The chase through the slippery ravines, unstable rock and abrupt cliffs is breathtaking. Both killers, the man and the dog, get all the immigrants but the young man with the red cap and the young woman whose parents had paid a man to see her to the USA. They had told her it would be much safer than their own city !
The last guide who fell from a fell and cannot move is shot at a very close range. With him gone, the young man and the young woman are left in a deadly desert with no idea where to head. Two days, running all time, hiding, taking risks in the mountain, tired, thirsty and panicking, the two were easy prey to two expert killer predators. The young woman suggests they steal the car of the killer man and run away. They tricked the predator dog by hanging a dead animal so that he smells it and is lured. The trick works and they get to the car, start it and leave. The dog can neither hold them nor catch them in their flight. The killer man is mad. Was he going to be left in the middle of the desert?
When everything seemed to be working out for the young pair, the woman gets a bullet in her arm and the car overturns. She could hardly walk. The man carried her a long way until he loses hope of getting away from the killers with her load on the back. He leans her in the shade of a desert plant, gives her first aid, picks up a flare gun and hits the mountain.
The killer posse, eventually got to the woman but thinking her dead or dying, they keep chasing after the last of the group. The young man crawl through the intertwined spiky cacti trunks and branches, mans the flare gun and when the over excited killer dog pushed his way close enough barking his guts out of rage, he shot right in his gaping maw. He is done for. The killer cried his companion dog as one would the dearest love of their life, one’s own flesh! The posse is reduced to one element. Without the dog, the killer is incapacitated, deprived of precious smell and hearing and is left alone with the high visibility rifle sight and the scope of his own experience as a desert hunter.
The chase through ravines, rough and slippery rocky terrain turns into a duel between two felines competing in a fight that can have only one winner. The hunter, now driven with the rage of vengeance, has lost the advantage of the calm of the professional murderer. For the first time, he misses shots. The young man, driven by the instinct of survival, has gained in agility, endurance and sound judgment. He manages to climb a rock so that the hunter is, for the first time, below him. He jumps over him, both fall down the cliff. The young man recovers the rifle which the hunter had lost grip of. Now, the hunter is lying on the ground, the leg crashed, unable to move, begging the young man not to shoot him and to help him. The latter hesitates and walks away. “The desert will kill you” he threw at the foe.
The young man finds the woman and carries her until, too tired and thirsty, he drops in what looked like a salt lake. Exhausted, dying, not knowing where to head, he seemed beaten when suddenly he cried he knew the way, he had seen a flickering light. He picks up the woman again and starts towards the winking light.
Jonás Cuarón, the Mexican director of the film, has encapsulated the plight of immigrants, not only in the Mexico – USA borders but everywhere fierce fights are opposed to the freedom of movement of persons and the right to survival is suppressed. Unequal strength and weaponry are deployed in hostile environments to check the evolution of individuals in worlds they have not been prepared to fare in. Hate and violence driving conceit and chauvinism generate individuals, who although operating as lone electrons, are left to rule over huge territories in complete lawlessness as sovereigns.
In the horizon, and beyond the dry salty territories, lights continue to shine, however…
Had the 15th International Marrakech Film Festival only been an opportunity to bring us films from so many horizons, cultures, societies and sensitivities, it would have met all its promises and our expectations. The curtain falls!
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