Crossing Over

The other night I came across a movie I had not heard of - 'Crossing Over'. This ensemble movie was filmed back in 2007 and had a limited theatrical release in 2009. Critically this film was panned. But I have to say I really, really enjoyed it.

This movie was bound to spark criticism given its touchy subject. The film deals with the complicated US immigration system. Some characters are desperately attempting to secure a green card, and will lie or degrade themselves to get one. Others are living in America illegally. Others are days away from naturalization as US citizens. The film attempts to show every side of a system that seems to be as equally corrupt as it is thorough. There is a good-hearted immigration officer played by Harrison Ford and a sleazy immigration officer played by Ray Liotta. One green card seeker lies and gets away with it, the other does not.

But the two biggest storylines are what, I think, caused such a vicious response to this movie. One involves a clash between a young Iranian-American women and her brothers (a controversial storyline that was heavily edited). The other begins with a scene in which a fifteen-year-old Muslim girl gives a speech at school where it appears she is sympathizing with the 9/11 suicide bombers. There was no way this was ever going to sit well with an American audience. And rightly so.

I felt for the Muslim girl in this film though. She never once says that she approves of the act, but rather that she understands why they felt the need to do something drastic just to be heard. In my mind trying to understand the motivation of terrorists does not mean we condone their acts. Instead we attempt to make sense of how things could get so out of hand, and how we as world inhabitants can try to minimize inequality, which is what often breeds hate and dissatisfaction in the first place.

When this young girl is arrested and later learns of her fate, I was crying. Whether right or wrong, this storyline touched my heart and I saw the family as just that - a family. Neither illegal or legal, neither bad nor good. They were just one family trying to stay together. And she was just another teenager trying to be heard, trying to express herself in a country that encourages, and promises, freedom.

To me 'Crossing Over' seemed equally for America as it was against - after all, these characters want desperately to live in the US, to secure their own slice of the American dream. But the film was also trying to say a lot about fighting the 'system', about racism and about paranoia, about people who are willing to deny their values in order to get what they want, and about violence that happens way too close to home. I can see why this film caused a debate, but surely that was part of its intention? It was, all in all, a very thought-provoking film.

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