a film about who we are
From Academy Award Nominee
No more “out of sight, out of mind.”
Oh Mercy is a documentary film about thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from Central America awaiting court dates and immigration hearings in the US—many for well over a year now, with no end in sight. Increasingly desperate and discouraged, they are huddled in squalid camps and detention centers on both sides of the Rio Grande, which for several hundred miles serves as a natural border between Mexico and the United States.
The camp in Matamoros, Mexico is, in many ways, a microcosm of a global phenomenon that will ultimately prove to be the defining human rights issue of our time: the massive displacement of tens of millions children, women, and men from their homes by forces beyond their control, including land and water failure due to climate change; gang violence; ethnic hatred; systemic poverty; failures of governance; and resource appropriation by industrialized nations.
A few weeks ago, Worldwide Documentaries president and Oscar® nominee Robert Bilheimer had an urgent conversation with Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, Texas, (one of TIME magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People for 2020) .
At issue for both Sister Norma and Robert was whether something could be done right now to bring the plight and desperation of the migrants and asylum-seekers on our southern border into a national conversation— both in the run-up to the general elections on November 3, 2020 and over the long term.
Sister Norma’s main point was that the Matamoros refugees are reaching a desperation point, with terrible outcomes. These outcomes include children, women, and men trying to cross the Rio Grande and drowning; trafficking and exploitation of children and young people on both sides of the border; the risk of COVID-19 infection; and, to add insult to injury, the seemingly never-ending cycle of rain, rats, and mosquitoes that are now infesting the Matamoros camp. The list goes on. “I’ve seen it all in my life of service,” Sister Norma told Robert, "but never anything like this."
All photography in this photo gallery, unless otherwise stated, is by Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas.
Without hesitating, Robert suggested to Sister during their conversation that he would produce a 10-minute documentary short film, Oh Mercy, which summarizes the current situation and the suffering that is taking place. The film is now being edited, and a 3-minute trailer is already available.
Oh Mercy includes extensive conversations with Sister Norma on the moral dimensions of the Matamoros crisis. Also contributing are Thelma Garcia, a lawyer who has been helping asylum seekers and immigrants in the Brownsville Matamoros region for more than 40 years; and Cindy Andrade Johnson, a humanitarian volunteer who travels to the camp once a week from Brownsville bringing medicine and other necessities to the refugees and asylum-seekers. Oh Mercy also includes storytelling with children and families from the camp; and exclusive still and motion picture photography in the camp itself, which is under lockdown for the foreseeable future.
Oh Mercy is a production of Worldwide Documentaries, a not-for-profit company that has focused on subjects of humanitarian concern for more than 30 years. Worldwide’s president, and the director of Oh Mercy and the Running To Stand Still series, is Academy Award nominee Robert Bilheimer. The film’s narrator is Glenn Close, with musical contributions from Bruce Springsteen and an original score by Will Severin. The film’s Executive Producer is Dr. Susan Bissell. The Senior Producer for Worldwide Documentaries is Heidi Ostertag.
Oh Mercy is intended for a national and international audience through social media, streaming platforms, national and international broadcasts, and grassroots distribution in partnership with NGOs, faith and community-based organizations, and children’s advocacy groups. There is already a long list of advocates and advocacy organizations for whom Oh Mercy will be an invaluable communication and advocacy tool.
There is no question that at present the United States has inhumane immigration policies. But as Sr. Norma says, "let’s solve this by talking with one another, listening to one another, and together, create a new immigration system that respects the fundamental dignity of each and every human being, no matter the color of their skin, or country of origin." We here in America can, and should be, an example for the world to see.
The feature-length version of Oh Mercy is intended for release in the first quarter of 2021.
Donate to this Project
Identifying and securing funding for our documentary film projects remains the biggest challenge our team-- or any team doing this kind of work-- faces. Your contribution is about much more than bringing an important film project to life. It is about remembering who we are and what we stand for as members of the human family. Thank you!
Director: Robert Bilheimer
Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas