Somewhere in the USA, the police comes into “a drop house” – a hideaway where illegal immigrants are being kept by traffickers before transporting them deeper into the country – and what they witness is a plastic rubbish bag, filled with human waste. In it, there is a man who is barely alive, and next to him, a brutally beaten pregnant woman. It is a horrible predicament, but the story of these people is not isolated. The USA press is full of descriptions of situations that are similar or even more drastic; people are dying of hunger and thirst on the North American roads, women and young girls are being sold to brothels and illegal immigrants are being murdered by ruthless smugglers. The aforementioned topic has been widely depicted in films and theatre and remains a common subject. The most recent production which outlines the issue in a heart-rending way is Santiago Paladines‘ The Fare, a short film that was screened at this year’s HollyShort Film Festival, which was recently named as an Academy Awards® Qualifying Festival.
When Javier (Johnny Ortiz: Soy Nero, American Crime), a young Ecuadorian man, becomes human traffickers’ helper, he has no idea that what he is about to experience is beyond his comprehension. One day, Javier picks up a group of undocumented immigrants, among them Cristina (Noemi Pedraza), a young teenager who managed to travel from Ecuador to Mexico to be reunited with her mother in the US. It seems like Javier will be able to move up the ladder of human trafficking as the gang leader Wellington (Eduardo Roman) thinks that the young men’s loyalty should be rewarded. After the initiation (what he had to do to gain Wellington’s approval is something hard to overcome) and proving himself to the leader, Javier is ordered to take Cristina to a location somewhere in Southern California, where he is to sell her to a house of ill repute. He quickly comes to the conclusion that his actions have been inhumane and he runs back to the property to save the girl. They manage to run away, but what comes after… is distressing and petrifying.
The Fare, written and directed by Santiago Paladines, plays strongly on viewers’ emotions. This is one of those films that one can only watch once in a lifetime, even if it is much more valuable than some other productions that one could watch repeatedly. There is a simple explanation as to why that is: The Fare is a compelling short that will leave a prominent mark on the audience’s memory. It is difficult to watch as the story – which is also inspired by true events – is shown in a very credible way. Santiago Paladines (to my understanding) avoided the over-demonization of illegal immigrants and sought to show the audience that traffickers are the ones who are truly devious. His work is devoid of flashy tricks and impressive techniques. The narrative operates with naturalism and simplicity; the dialogues are thrifty and the acting – Johnny Ortez in particular – is meaningful and credible. The topic of the film is an important one and needs to be explored in order for the general audience to understand the immense issue that the USA and other foreign countries face nowadays. We definitely need to be more understanding towards the undocumented immigrants, as some fall prey to the violent human traffickers, who present extra difficulties for governments. All in all, The Fare is a superb short film that deserves worldwide recognition.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © The Fare