Community Relations Manager
KUNV 91.5 FM
University of Nevada Las Vegas
The winner of the 2006 Grand Jury prize at CineVegas has opened in select
theaters, and it addresses two very hot topics in the U.S. This film takes
the subjects of illegal immigration and the war in Iraq, and mashes them
together to create a very human and well-written screenplay.
The film opens on an airplane headed back to America from Iraq. Jesus (Joe
Arquette) is one of the passengers (no, not that Jesus…it’s pronounced hey-zeus)
and has just finished his six months of duty in the war. He returns to his
wife, the gorgeous “Dominican Princess” Claudia (Patricia Mota) and his
young daughter Marina (Telana Lynum). Everything seems like it’s back to
normal, and Jesus swears to Claudia that he’ll never leave again, and that
he’ll definitely never go back to Iraq.
After a few days, Jesus begins noticing strange things happening around him.
He begins seeing a man named Mohammed who follows him around and seems to
know him but Jesus has no idea who he is. The disturbing part is, he later
realizes, is that no one else can see him. He knows that something is not
right in his mind, but Jesus decides that ignoring it might make it go away.
The fact that one of his fellow soldiers has just been diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t help matters much, and he gets more
and more paranoid with each passing day.
The whole point of Jesus working so hard in the military and leaving his
family is so that he can become a legal U.S. citizen. He and his family
immigrated to get away from their lives in Mexico, and are living in a
trailer so that they can save money and send their daughter to a relatively
good school. So when Jesus finds out he is being redeployed to Iraq in two
weeks, he does everything he can to avoid it but still hold on to the chance
of becoming a legal citizen. Because he saved a Colonel’s son from dying in
Iraq, the Colonel protects him, gives him money, and offers him a very
lucrative, but very top-secret way to serve his time in the military, but
prevent being in Iraq again.
The Colonel’s suggestion and Jesus’ impending research and contemplation
over this mission leads to some of the film’s boldest statements about the
war, and about world corporations in general. Jesus finds out that
Pepsi-Cola is providing money for weapons, and the military funds operations
through some very illegal and risky missions. He also begins suspecting that
his wife is having an affair, so he becomes even more agitated, paranoid and
angry. Plus, he can’t shake Mohammed, and he obviously has to deal with a
huge amount of remorse and guilt over killing people while he was serving.
I think that writers were touching on some very interesting ideas and
definitely tried to bring attention to the seedy underbelly of funding
national protection, but they could have taken it one step further. The way
they presented ideas made them seem uninformed. None of the statements made
in the film were very original, and these ideas are talked about in the
media every single day. If the writer/director (Carl Colpaert) had presented
an idea or opinion I’d never heard before, maybe the movie would have stood
out to me more, or made a bigger impact.
As far as technical merit of the film went, I thought it was well done for a
low budget production. There was a very interesting use of night vision,
where footage from actual night battles in Iraq would be used, and they
would transition into everyday situations in Jesus’ life, but remain in
night vision. A lot of the news footage was obviously very graphic, but it
provided the most powerful part of the plot and made the strange things
happening to Jesus seem more realistic and frightening. Some of the
camerawork was really shaky, and that was distracting at certain points, but
otherwise it was well put together.
Overall, the film was very well written and the resolution made everything
come together. While I was lost throughout much of the film, the ending
really solidified Jesus’ worries and came to a good conclusion. A lot of the
acting was stiff, and certain characters, especially Claudia, always seemed
to be stumbling over their words. I think this film could have been a lot
more powerful if it had made some bolder, more informed statements, but
there were still some interesting ideas presented at a time when the war in
Iraq is under extremely close scrutiny.