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Which Way Home (2009) - Movie Review

Children in Desperate Circumstances

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Which Way Home (2009) - Movie Review

Which Way Home Poster Art

HBO Documentaries
In Which Way Home, Rebecca Cammisa investigates the problems of illegal immigration and child labor in a very human way -- she follows a couple of kids who are trying to cross the Mexican/US border to get to the land of their dreams and begin a better life.

Travelling Companions

The central characters in Which Way Home are Kevin and Lito, two Ecuadorian boys aged 14 and 13, respectively. They are fun-loving kids who've left their homes and families to pursue their dream of having enough to eat, and of providing their families with the same. Their game plan is to ride the trains -- hopping from one freight route to another -- north through Mexico to the US border, which they will try to illegally cross -- they're not sure quite how -- in order to be 'reborn' into a new life with better options. They're likable kids, and they should be going to school and playing hoops. Instead, they're begging for soup from women vendors at train stations, and trying to figure out how to ride on top of a freight car without being swept off of it by low-hanging tree branches.

There are other kids, too. One ten year old boy was found by authorities after he was abandoned in the desert by his 'coyote' because he couldn't keep pace with the others being smuggled into the land of their dreams.

Authorities interviewed in the film tell that they find bodies of children in the desert, or floating in the river. Of the thousands of Latin Americans who try to cross the Mexican/US border illegally each year, about five percent are children who are traveling alone. They are absolutely defenseless. They are all at risk.

Exceptionally Effective Filmmaking

Which Way Home actually puts you on the trains with Kevin and Lito, and the other kids. The camera follows the kids as they run and jump on the moving freight trains, climb up the narrow ladders to the tops of the cars and find a spot to cling to as the train clamors along. There are times when the trains lurch, and expressions of terror pass momentarily over the boys' faces. The camera is there to capture it all. Cammisa's commitment to showing us the ropes, so to speak, is extraordinary. She's all over this story, and brilliantly so.

But the film isn't about flashy camera work. Cammisa gets these kids to tell their stories in a candid, uncensored way that is, frankly, harrowing. Kevin's mom can't feed him and his siblings. Lito's mom has a new husband who doesn't support him. And, ultimately, both boys hope that when they get to the US, someone will adopt them. But, for the time being, they're begging for soup.

In the end, Camissa doesn't suggest solutions. She actually leaves the story -- and the issues -- unresolved. The credits roll and the screen goes dark, but the real life stories -- and the issues -- continue on. It is very likely that after seeing Which Way Home, you will want to do something to help these kids or others like them, or to challenge the status on third world poverty, illegal immigration and child labor. If that's the case, Which Way Home will steer you in the right direction. Just check the Which Way Home website to connect with ways to help.

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Film Details:

  • Which Way Home
  • Director: Rebecca Cammisa
  • Release Date: January 31, 2009 (limited)
  • Running Time: 90 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: USA
  • Locations: Guatamela, Mexico, USA
  • Language: English and Spanish (with subtitles)
  • Production Company: Documentress Films, HBO Documentaries
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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