Low production value with a big message

Immigration may be an issue that has been on the table for a while, but the question of what to do with undocumented youth has been a subject our government is a lot less vocal about.

Immigration may be an issue that has been on the table for a while, but the question of what to do with undocumented youth has been a subject our government is a lot less vocal about.

Writer and director Anne Galisky is hoping to change this with her documentary Papers: The Movie. In Papers, Galisky and her crew follow the lives of five undocumented teens: Monica, Juan Carlos, Yo Sub, Simone and Jorge, all from diverse backgrounds.

All of them want to go on to greater things but, upon graduation, are faced with the realization that they may not be able to find a job or continue their education.

Monica is a giggly girl who loves shopping and her boyfriend, and she cannot wait to get out of high school and go to college. Sadly, during the film, she is in the middle of deportation proceedings back to a country she doesn’t remember.

Yo Sub was born in South Korea and has earned excellent grades in high school, all the while being involved with music, National Honor Society and other extracurricular activities.  He is a 4.0 student and has already earned 12 advanced placement credits during his high school career. Despite these achievements, he is rejected from all of the colleges he applies to. Yo Sub speculates that it is because he is an illegal immigrant.

Simone, who was brought to the United States from Jamaica by her mother, is also rejected when she goes in to apply for school. Her situation, however, is far more humiliating as she is publically yelled at in an admissions office for not having the proper documentation papers.

The film was produced in Portland, but the issue should be one of national concern. In the last few years, activists and lobbyists have been pushing to pass legislation to help high school students with questionable documentation status attend college without having to pay out-of-state tuition—something most of them cannot afford to do.

Papers is not a very well-produced film. The filmmakers get a little too artsy at times with off-kilter camera angles and strange close-ups that look sloppy. The rest of the production is a little elementary in its feel and looks as though a first year film student made it. And, at a whopping 90 minutes, the runtime could have easily been cut in half without losing much.

There were also a couple of moments in the film that got very uncomfortable. Specifically, when the filmmakers speak with one of Monica’s teachers. Her comments in light of finding out that Monica might be deported were limited to how well she “fits in” and what a wonderfully typical American she is.

The impression garnered from this scene is that the teacher thinks Monica should be allowed to stay because she’s done such a great job conforming to whatever this woman thinks is “typical” of American culture.

The question that should be asked in this situation is: What if she wasn’t so “typical?” What if she didn’t speak English or like shopping or wear the latest teen fashions? Would this teacher be as anxious to jump in then?

Despite the messiness, length and the aforementioned moment with Monica’s teacher, Papers really is a beautiful film with an important message told straight from the mouths of those being affected. What starts out looking like an immigration issue becomes a matter of equal opportunity and a duty to educate a part of our population that is not being fulfilled. Papers may not be Cannes-worthy, but it’s a really good start toward exploring a topic that has been ignored for far too long.