Film Review: Those Who Remain

Stephen Piggott • Oct 23, 2009

Imagine you are a child again, lying in bed asleep when all of a sudden you are awakened by your father. He kisses you on the cheek and says “goodbye”. Seven years later he returns from ‘up North’ but now you are 14 and to each other you are almost unrecognizable.

This is the hardship that thousands of Mexican families go through each year when the men of the family head to the United States in search of work. Those Who Remain documents exactly what the title says, those family members who are left behind, almost always women in children.

The film examines a wide range of families from all corners of Mexico, some live without electricity, others living in a second home built with the money sent back from up North, and still others trying to cope with the death of a husband and father who will never return home.

The strain on the wives and children is evident, especially in times of celebration like communions and weddings when the father’s are noticeably absent. Many of the interviews begin with “when Marcos comes home…” or “when my husband left…” which can be gut-wrenching, especially when the children speak about their fathers and brothers.

This is the sort of documentary that anti-immigrant groups such as FAIR don’t want you to see. FAIR and their “think tank” Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) argue that undocumented immigrants are criminals and use up valuable resources, but this documentary tells us a different tale.

The families in this documentary can only be described as humble, religious and loving people who put family first. They are not criminals or bigots. The husbands, fathers and brothers in Those Who Remain are going to the United States with only positive intentions. For many of the men remaining in Mexico is not an option because of the lack of available jobs in the country.

Mexico is depicted as beautiful but static, with deserted houses and few economic opportunities. The only men who remain are those too old or too young to travel and those who have returned, choosing to live out their remaining days in the country of their birth.

Contrary to the anti-immigrant stereotype, almost all of the fathers and brothers in the film return at some point, proving that their desire to be in their homeland and reunited with their families is more important than the money they are making in the U.S. I would recommend Those Who Remain to everyone; it is a fantastic documentary that is full of hardship, but also hope and joy.

To watch a trailer for the movie click here.

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