Fernanda Valadez’s ‘Identifying Features’, playing at Dharamsala, is a poignant drama about would-be illegal migrants

Posted on November 7, 2020



This is neither about the issue (would-be illegal immigrants) nor the mystery (what happened to the protagonist’s son who tried to cross over from Mexico to the US?). It’s more about a mother…

When you think of illegal (would-be) immigrants crossing over, you think of barbed-wire fences, helicopters throwing spotlights on the ground, difficult terrain after difficult terrain to be covered on foot… But the two Mexican boys who set off for Arizona (someone has promised them a job) in Fernanda Valadez’s Identifying Features could be taking a trip to Paradise. (And maybe that is what the US is to them.) They’re close to the camera, and we see them from behind. And before them, beyond them, lies a lush field, and beyond that lie mountains, and above them, clouds send forth shafts of soft sunlight.

But the voiceover we hear over this visual is far from idyllic. It’s from the mother of one of the boys: “The last we heard from them, they were taking a bus to the border.” She is with the mother of the other boy, at what appears to be a police station. The two boys are missing. The mothers are given an album containing pictures of dead youths, one of whom is one of those two boys.  But where’s the other one? And so, his mother – Magdalena (Mercedes Hernández) — decides to set out in search. He may be dead, she realises. But she needs to know.

Read the rest of this article at the link above.

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