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From the Other Side

  • Directed by Chantal Akerman
  • Belgium/France/Australia/Finland, 2002, 99 mins., French

On the Mexico-US border, the twin towns of Agua Prieta, Sonora and Douglas, Arizona—far from the population centers of Juarez/El Paso or Tijuana/San Diego—are home to both hopeful, persistent immigrants and resilient, spiteful permanent residents. As with most of Akerman’s documentary work, she brings a keen, searching eye to this most barren of places, in the process accumulating crucial testimonies from immigrants in search of a better life, away from the war-torn countries from which they flee; and, on the opposite side of the border, with those who seem to want nothing more than for those immigrants not to reach their final destination. Intercut with pensive tracking shots of the foreboding Sonoran desert, illustrating the brutality of the landscape, Akerman’s portrait of place and people is one of her most somberly poetic works in a career filled with exactly that. “Chilling! Stunningly composed… In a few deft interviews [the film] shows the hypocrisy and paranoia involved in U.S. immigration policy and its failure to acknowledge the economic dependence of the U.S. on undocumented laborers.” —Amy Taubin, Film Comment.

Genres: Documentary

Other Films by Chantal Akerman

Nuit et jour (Night and Day)

Julie and Jack, recently arrived in Paris, are a young couple from the provinces who spend their days making love and their nights apart, while Jack drives a taxi and Julie walks the streets, waiting for him to come home.  Their vague aspirations take a backseat to their constant passion. “Music” resonates throughout—Julie sings wordlessly

Sud

The work of James Baldwin and William Faulkner long influenced Chantal Akerman’s work and life, and she had long planned to shoot a film about the American south — and finally, an opportunity came just before the new millennium. But in Jasper, Texas, mid-1998, James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man, was dragged behind a vehicle

Toute une nuit

One summer night in Brussels, sweltering heat stifles the community, which draws people out of their comfort zone and into despair. Akerman explores a series of on-the-brink relationships—break-ups, reconciliations—in the context of this hottest night of the year, where defenses are built, but at the same time, are down. Nearly wordless yet filled with subtle

Almayer’s Folly

With Almayer’s Folly, Akerman tackles the terrible legacy of the European colonial project in Southeast Asia head-on through an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s late-19th-century novel of the same name. Crucially, Akerman makes a handful of changes, transposing Conrad’s Cambodia for Malaysia and Conrad’s 19th Century for the 1950s, the tail end of direct colonial control.

Le Demenagement & Le Jour Où

In a script written by Akerman, a man stands in his new apartment in a state of inertia and dislocation. Le Demenagement records the man delivering an extended soliloquy, surrounded by boxes of his possessions. He cannot bring himself to unpack, as he is preoccupied with feelings of indecision and regret. Akerman circumscribes the man’s