a film about who we are
From Academy Award Nominee
No more “out of sight, out of mind.”
Oh Mercy is a ten-minute documentary short about the dehumanization, marginalization, and increasing sense of desperation among thousands of refugees and asylum seeks clustered in a camp in Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas. Denied entry into the US by deliberate and deceptive policies that are xenophobic and contrary to our nation’s historic principles, these helpless victims represent a sad chapter in the history of a country that has always been a beacon of hope to the tired, the helpless, and those struggling to be free.
The camp in Matamoros 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."
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.
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.
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