’m Leaving Now / Ya Me Voy
(USA/Mexico, 74 minutes)
Dir: Lindsey Cordero, Armando Croda
Programme: Made in Mexico. (World Premiere)
A camera attached to a cart full of recyclables is pulled through New York at dawn. In the dim light, with scenes crowded by used bottles and cans, we watch as the city is made viscerally uncomfortable. The bottles rattle over the uneven ground and crash over steps, and the smooth sidewalks and welcoming streets of the metropolis are given new meaning in this context. This is how Ya Me Voy opens, with the after-hours ritual performed by Felipe, a Mexican immigrant living in the States. Having worked at low paying jobs and supplementing that income by collecting trash, Felipe has spent the last 16 years away from his family, sending them back money but never making enough to go home himself. In Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda’s documentary, we watch Felipe over the course of two years as he attempts to support his family and return home, while dealing with the conflict of what family means when you’ve been kept apart for so long.
Ya Me Voy begins with an astute exploration of Felipe’s situation. The issue of Felipe’s economic state, trapping him in America, and denying him the family life he so desires, is broadened by the personal turmoil Felipe faces. He expresses love for his family, but has doubts of what they can feel for him, particularly his son whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. He wants an intimate bond that can’t be fostered by distance. An upbeat, extroverted individual, Felipe is a charismatic figure, and watching him descend into despair and the depths of loneliness is heartbreaking. Cordero and Croda’s doc manages to give humanity to the immigration story by allowing it to encompass complex emotions as well as economic and political realities.
At the same time, it is difficult to watch Ya Me Voy and feel totally comfortable. This goes beyond how uncomfortable we should feel, over the state of things, which keep people from their families, denying them the basic comforts of life, and their emotional needs, in order to survive. Watching Felipe languish before the camera, it is hard not to question what he got out of the experience, and why the filmmakers couldn’t have aided by him. The observational style of the doc makes one feel helpless. But is that productive? While the film offers a necessary perspective on race, class, and nationality, it seems too ready to allow Felipe’s problems to unfold unaided, bringing up questions of why this man must suffer on-screen for our education and entertainment.
I’m Leaving Now screens:
-Sat, Apr. 28 at 6:00 PM at Scotiabank
-Mon, Apr. 30 at 2:45 PM at TIFF Lightbox
-Sun, May 6 at 5:30 PM at TIFF Lightbox
Hot Docs runs April 26 to May 6. Please visit hotdocs.ca for more info.