On Thursday, November 2, Bates hosted a screening of the documentary Clínica de Migrantes: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, by Maxim Pozdorovkin. The 39 minute film documented the routines of workers and patients of Puentes de Salud, a health care nonprofit organization for Latino immigrants. Beyond showing the daily workings of the clinic, Pozdorovkin peeks into the structural exclusion of undocumented immigrants from healthcare and labor rights.
The ideation of the documentary started around 3 years ago, with a possible Trump presidency slowly emerging in the horizon. The film shows a politically and emotionally charged reality that proposes a series of questions. After the screening, Pozdorovkin presented a few of his thoughts and concerns and answered questions from the audience.
Earlier that day, I had the chance to meet with Pozdorovkin in the Den along with other students interested in filmmaking. There, he explained the origin of Clínica de Migrantes. The filmmaker told us that he was contacted by HBO to investigate Puentes de Salud and see if there was a story for a documentary. Initially, Pozdorovkin was concerned that people would not be interested in having their medical appointments recorded, especially in the case of undocumented immigrants. There was a concern for the safety of the people as well as a consideration of the impact of a documentary on the clinic itself. After researching and talking to the patients and healthcare providers involved, Pozdorovkin determined that he could make a fruitful and non-invasive documentary, and he took on the project of recording the clinic.
According to the director, there was a sense of gratitude and visibility that people wanted to express. This humanity was apparent to other Bates students as well; “what stuck for me was how much the staff invested in their patients, not only in their health but in their lives,” Sydney Anderson ’20 stated.
I was personally fascinated by the ethical discussions that permeate representation and documentation. It can be challenging to portray the lack of basic rights without fetishizing pain and suffering; it seems to me that the filmmaker may have paid special attention to this question in the structuring of the documentary, which presents emotion as well as a critical understanding of American politics.
The timing of the documentary is striking. The fear of mass deportation with the Trump administration’s influence in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) puts the documentary into a new light. Pozdorovkin mentioned that Trump winning the election marked a change in the present American context of living. “It seemed prudent, especially during the current administration, to humanize the undocumented immigration issue,” Anderson mentioned.
In the Den, Pozdorovkin briefly mentioned a few of his other projects. One that stuck out to me was a short film called Our New President, which depicts the American President Donald Trump through the eyes of Russian media. The absurd situation of having a person such as Trump in power becomes even more surreal when presented alongside the fake news and state-controlled media outlets Pozdorovkin highlights in the short. The filmmaker seemed particularly excited about the lack of facts in the previously developed 12 minute short film; this short will expand into a feature-length production in the future.
Pozdorovkin mentioned the word “grotesque” to describe the state of Russian media presented in Our New President. He clarified that he used the word “grotesque” to mean a combination between the comic and the horrifying by blending what is funny and scary into one product. This definition presents a sense of bizarre hybridity that makes one uncomfortable with their own laughter regarding the current political situation.
If you could not attend the screening but would like to see the films, Clínica de Migrantes is available on HBO’s website and Our New President can be viewed on Vimeo. I strongly recommend viewing these two films; their honest portrayal of political issues in the US and abroad cannot be overstated.