Immokalee USA

Every year thousands of migrant farm workers arrive in small towns like Immokalee in Florida looking for work. There is rarely enough to go around and those who do find jobs are paid very poorly and worked very hard. This documentary follows the experiences of six individuals who live and work in the migrant farming community of Immokalee.

Immokalee USA

Despite the poverty there is a strong sense of community here and services are administered by charitable workers. People from all kinds of places come to Immokalee for work and there is an obvious element of competition which can turn nasty and lead to infighting. The accommodation for the workers is pretty basic and most of them live in cheaply rented trailers.

There are several interviews with the farmer who is at pains to point out that he doesn´t mistreat the workers but he acknowledges that the crew leaders often do and that many workers are brought across the border illegally and serve as virtual slaves. The workers themselves are a mixed bunch, some are happy; some are miserable, all are trapped by their poverty and have little in the way of prospects. On top of the poverty the community has an unusually high cancer rate due to the powerful insecticides sprayed on the fields.

Director Georg Koszulinski has a subtle approach and foregoes narration in favour of allowing the people to tell their own story. The environment and people are beautifully filmed and there are a number of memorable shots in the film. One of the few moments when we are aware of the director and crew is also one of the most poignant moments in the film as they follow a worker who is trying to call home, after trying a half dozen payphones without success and running out of money they hand him a cell phone so he can make the call. Upon speaking with his family he breaks down into tears at his situation and you can hardly fail to be affected by the poor guy´s sadness.

The film ends on a happier note with some of the workers enjoying a visit to a local funfair and a brief respite from their crushing poverty. The man who was so upset on the phone earlier returns home his journey having been a very bad experience.

This is a skilfully made documentary which highlights the plight of a group of largely ignored and forgotten people. They continue to try and earn a living doing work no-one else wants and the real crime here is that there are people profiting from their misery - the big agribusinesses, the farmers, the crew leaders and the landlords.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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