Victor A. Martinez and Ryan Schafer’s Laredoans Speak is bad in a special kind of way that inspires the obviously piteous description of “well-intentioned.” It is, but this documentary is also inept and unwatchable—a horrendous assembly of pat clichés that would be infuriatingly simple-minded if it weren’t so ridiculous.
The film is comprised of interviews with a variety of citizens of Laredo, Texas—the mayor, an immigration attorney, a smuggler, and so on—concerning our country’s controversial immigration policies, particularly regarding the Mexican/Texan border. Martinez and Schafer alternate between obvious sentiments (such as “people feel a threat to their existence by someone who looks different than them” and, seriously, “No one’s trying to take anything from anyone else”) being sounded by faces shot in often off-putting close-up with crudely inserted bar graphs meant to illuminate the viewer on jobs that Mexican immigrants typically work, the percentages of the population that come from Mexico, and so forth. Occasionally, lest we miss the point, a smug host, who looks a little like James Brolin, appears in front of an idyllic western backdrop to summarize that our immigration laws are unfair. At one point, even the word “racism”—randomly and hilariously—appears at the bottom of the screen.
The topics these earnest and uninteresting people discuss are clearly valid, as this country’s immigration policies are generally known to be arbitrary, insane, unforgiveable, and partially irresolvable. But Larodeans Speak doesn’t truly wrestle with the governmental corruption, racism, and panic that’s clearly present in this subject matter and the sad difficulty of initiating even well-intentioned mass reform is never acknowledged. The result is a film that’s no more than a condescending and seemingly endless 76-minute slideshow that proclaims that racism is bad. No kidding.