Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Guardian of Memory’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Guardian of Memory’

Through all of the hysteria of Donald Trump’s border wall crusade and the horrors of ICE’s immigration methods and human-rights-violating detention centers, one thing keeps getting lost – the voices of the Mexican citizens who have been forced into the decision to flee their home country, a place that has been deemed the second most deadliest conflict zone in the world behind Syria. In Marcela Arteaga’s lyrical and haunting doc, The Guardian of Memory, that voice is given back in focusing on the residents of the Mexican border-state of Chihuahua, who were left fearful, uprooted and essentially homeless due to ongoing drug wars.

The story actually begins back in 2008, when the Mexican government sent army forces to Chihuahua to battle the cartels that would traffic drugs through the region into the U.S. Before they knew it, the residents who had previously lived in peace and relative prosperity found themselves caught in the middle and threatened by aggressors from both sides. As the violence escalated, many survivors fled to the border to try and gain asylum. What they found, however, was just a different kind of Hell – the American immigration process.

Arteaga lets the camera roll patiently on her interview subjects as they detail riveting and emotionally painful stories of having loved ones kidnapped and killed by any number of armed aggressors, as well as troubling first-person perspectives of life in an unwelcoming new country. Interspersed are haunting tableaux of the wrecked and abandoned homes and buildings scattered around Chihuahua like a hollowed out warzone. Meanwhile, Texas-born immigration lawyer Carlos Spector fights the good fight for Mexicans trying to obtain asylum, even while admitting that America is the most skilled when it comes political corruption.

It’s a beautifully impressionistic portrait of a seemingly hopeless situation.

  • Release Date: 4/28/2019
This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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