Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Infiltrators’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Infiltrators’

The prison break movie gets a politically urgent makeover in The Infiltrators, the new hybrid documentary that follows a group of undocumented youth activists as they attempt their most audacious plan yet – willingly getting incarcerated in a notorious U.S. detention center in order to help free prisoners from the inside.

The National Immigration Youth Alliance made waves for their daring protests at government institutions, staging sit-ins to make demands for the release of people unlawfully detained by ICE. Using their own undocumented DREAMer status as their power, they decided the next step was to start working from the inside. Orchestrated by leader Mohammad Abdollahi, two NIYA members, Marco Saavedra and Viridiana Martinez, walk up to the Broward Transitional Center in Florida, one of the most notorious for-profit detention centers in the country, and are promptly arrested. Once inside, they work undercover with the team on the outside to overturn deportations and expedite the releases of as many of the individuals incarcerated as they can.

Co-directed by Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera (who explored U.S.-Mexico border relations in 2008’s dystopian sci-fi flick Sleep Dealer) cleverly mix different narrative techniques to tell this real-life suspense story. Since they obviously couldn’t shoot the actual events inside Broward, they stage re-enactments to intercut with the verité footage of the team working on the outside. It’s here that the film falters a little, however, as the somewhat amateurish staged sequences don’t have quite the same level of immediacy as the rest of the film. Nevertheless, the events are so incredible that you can’t help but be awestruck at the bravery and determination of these activists.

The film ends just as Trump gets elected, emboldening ICE to be even more ruthless in their practices. For these human rights warriors, the fight is just beginning.

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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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