Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Minutemen

“The Minutemen” plays things down the middle, content to observe. When watching a bias documentary, such as Fahrenheit 9/11, or An Inconvenient Truth, we expect to be shocked every few minutes. Well did you know this? And then this! Oh yes, here's this shocking fact too! And sadly the exhilaration of a pissed off point of view, is missing from this film.

In it's place is an overwhelming feeling of dedication. The film-makers to the documentary, the minutemen to their post, the illegal immigrants to coming here to work and survive. All of them out in an unbearable desert because they feel they need to be there.

This is a passion project and it shows. Anyone willing to traipse out into the desert day in and day over the course of four years has passion or a screw loose. Possibly both. These subjects, The Minutemen, are American Citizens who took to the Mexican border to monitor and report on any illegals crossing the border, are out in that desert. Morning, noon, night.

Technically the film is a little shaky, there's no narrative or thesis to the film, and instead it seems the crew took cameras into the desert, followed around the minutemen, then assembled the most exciting footage they had. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when watching the film, my mind wandered on some occasions, I was not compelled. I was informed.

That said, the movie does what it says it will do: It shows us what the minutemen do (watch, mostly), and on occasion surprises you with a development like a subject having a heart attack, two minutemen being investigated for robbery, or a stereotypically redneck Minutemom making a point that makes it hard to actively hate her despite the fact she was just harassing all the migrant workers outside of home depot with a video camera. And this almost works. It almost works because all the people in the film are intensely compelling.

They're an eclectic bunch. the kind of folk who could be on Jerry Springer if they didn't mean so well. They sit and wait and radio in, and well, it's actually pretty boring. No wonder so many of them have pets. From lil dog, to Minutemom, to Max Kennedy, the boston born guru of the minutemen who deserves his own twitter account more than anyone else on the planet, you enjoy the time they're on screen.

Since the film avoids making the minutemen out to look like crazed rednecks, it's important they're all presented as human characters, and they are. Too often we assume these people in the south going on about the evils of immigration are minus teeth and jobs and just want an excuse to go out with their gun and a bad attitude. And maybe that's partly the case, but there really is more to the issue than that, and everyone has a fairly reasonable excuse for playing cowboy.

Good documentaries make you ask questions, make you want to learn more, make you want to go on wikipedia and lose 45 minutes reading about the content. In a perfect world this documentary will get the film-makers a TV show on PBS, their next project more funding and a bigger staff, allowing them to assemble at least a touch more sleek production.

Interview with The Minutemen Filmmakers

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