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Mountains And Clouds (#110 of 3)

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: Last Best Chance

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: <em>Last Best Chance</em>
Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: <em>Last Best Chance</em>

Another documentary about the foiled fight for U.S. immigration reform from How Democracy Works Now, Last Best Chance delivers the message that was missing from the other film from this series that’s playing at the Human Rights Watch festival. Mountains and Clouds zooms in so tightly on the macro view of the fight to pass or derail a relatively small piece of legislation that we never learn what motivates the fighters, but Last Best Chance takes the wide-angle view.

Directors Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini and editor Jane Rizzo lay out the stakes this time with admirable clarity and impact, starting with a prologue that explains the need for immigration reform. The filmmakers aren’t above using PowerPoint-style lists or that honeyed, voice-of-reason voiceover that I found so annoying in both films, but they don’t resort to those often. For the most part, they stitch together powerful snippets of conversation, speeches, and lectures by eloquent and impassioned people.

A Movie a Day, Day 33: Mountains and Clouds

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A Movie a Day, Day 33: <em>Mountains and Clouds</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 33: <em>Mountains and Clouds</em>

Yesterday’s movie was Mountains and Clouds, an IV injection of inside-baseball maneuvering for political junkies about the start-and-stop process of trying to legislate immigration reform just before and after September 11. For my review, part of Slant’s coverage of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, click here.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: Mountains and Clouds

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: <em>Mountains and Clouds</em>
Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: <em>Mountains and Clouds</em>

The second movie in a 12-part series on the politics of U.S. immigration reform, Mountains and Clouds is an IV injection of inside-baseball maneuvering for political junkies. But directors Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini have bigger ambitions than that for the series. As Robertson says on the series website: “Our hope is that if you watch the shows, and get to know Esther or Frank or Alfredo, or Randy, Margaret, Becky, pretty much any of our friends who helped us get these movies made, they will inspire you to be a more active participant in the running of this country.” It’s a noble goal, but I wonder how many of us are up for it. All I could think, after watching this earnest film, was: I’m not worthy.

Robertson and Camerini picked a great topic and had great luck in their timing: They even end this one with a kind of cliffhanger, warning that the battle it covers strengthened the hand of anti-immigration zealot Tom Tancredo and his allies. But the earnest tone of Mountains and Clouds (the film is named for the Calder sculpture in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building) made me long for a little more sizzle and snap. A little time behind the scenes with the anti-immigration activists, for instance, might have given this more insight into that point of view, and more effectively dramatized the gap between the two sides.