Which Way Home
The personal side of immigration as child migrants from Mexico and Central America risk everything to make it to the US riding atop freight trains.
Directed by Rebecca Cammisa
Executive Producers: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell Smith, Jack Turner, Bristol Baughan, Bette Cerf Hill
For HBO, Executive Producer: Sheila Nevins
For HBO, Supervising Producer: Sara Bernstein
Directors of Photography:
Lorenzo Hagerman, Eric Goethals
Editors: Pax Wassermann, Madeleine Gavin
Music: James Lavino, Alberto Iglesias
a Mr. Mudd Production in association with Documentress Films
[Community screenings of WHICH WAY HOME can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"A truly captivating documentary, that doesn't carry an agenda." Erik Davis, Cinematical
Note: The original version of the film, which the filmmaker prefers that you see, contains a few profanities. The versions on this DVD have all been bleeped. If you would rather see the 83-minute original version, click here.
Note 2: There are three versions of this program on the same DVD: two versions in Spanish with English subtitles -- the 83-minute original version and a new 63-minute version -- plus the 83-minute version in Spanish. All have been bleeped.
As the United States continues to build a wall between itself and Mexico, WHICH WAY HOME shows the personal side of immigration through the eyes of children who face harrowing dangers with enormous courage and resourcefulness as they endeavor to make it to the United States.
The film follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call "The Beast." Director Rebecca Cammisa ("Sister Helen") tracks the stories of children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year old Hondurans who are desperately trying to reach their families in Minnesota, and Jose, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center, and focuses on Kevin, a canny, streetwise 14-year-old Honduran, fleeing an abusive stepfather, and whose mother hopes that he will reach New York City and send money back to his family. These are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow. They are the ones you never hear about - the invisible ones.
Note: Contains scenes with children smoking.
Grade Level: 9-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2010
Copyright Date: 2009
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-941-0
"This extraordinary film brings viewers into the perilous, poetic, and inspiring world of several boys who dream of a better life, and risk life and limb to attain it...The combination of gorgeous cinematography, urgent social commentary, and sympathetic human stories make this a winning film. If a library can only purchase one film about immigration, this is the perfect choice."
School Library Journal
"It's an amazing film. As someone who teaches immigration courses but also does research precisely on the issue of family separation and the migration of children, I have seen many films about how migrants reach the United States. But I've never seen anything like Which Way Home. It's easily the best documentary of its kind I've seen...The film does not dehumanize or essentialize these children. Rather, the humane and sensitive lens seems to aim to present a realistic picture that can inform many about the human drama that these young immigrants and their families live...But we don't only get to hear the children's stories in their own voices, we also learn their parents' views, and get a good glimpse of the context within which the kids live and within which they make decisions to migrate...A remarkably well done documentary that will inform many students of immigration and spark important debates."
Cecilia Menjivar, Professor of Sociology, School of
Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University, Author, Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America
"The film ably represents the tension between childhood and adulthood that characterizes the lives of these migrant children: they are adults when they decide to emigrate in order to improve the quality of life of their mothers and siblings; they are adults when they manage to survive in the extremely dangerous conditions that characterize their voyage; but they are fundamentally children as they gather in playgrounds along the way to play as children usually do. The filmmakers do not portray the reality of these children in a simplified or stereotypical manner; instead, as ethnographers do, they are able to show the complexity of the phenomenon of child migration through a thorough description of the concrete experience of a group of Central American children...from the children's own point of view, through the children's own voices. Congratulations to the filmmakers!"
Dr. Ricardo B. Contreras, Applied Anthropologist, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology,
East Carolina University, Director, Nuevo South Action Research Collaborative
"This film is an unusual and sobering look into the personal experiences of young boys as they join other migrants on their way north. Students will follow the boys on their journey, see their homes and families, and also get a look at the immigrant detention process that so many of these boys go through. The film will provoke discussion and reflection, and would be especially useful in a course dealing with the larger structural issues informing personal and familial decisions to emigrate to the United States from Central America."
Donna Murdock, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Women's Studies, and International and Global Studies, Sewanee-The University of the South
"Heartbreaking...Theses stories illustrate how U.S. immigration and border enforcement policies affect families thousands of miles away who have no recourse but to migrate without documents so as to find opportunities for work. This documentary is an invaluable educational tool for all ages."
Patricia Zavella, Professor and Chair, Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California-Santa Cruz, Author, Women and Migration in the US-Mexico Borderlands
"Produces a powerful testimony of how absolute poverty hurls even young children into the clandestine migrant stream. It is the best film made of the undocumented migration of Central Americans into the United States."
Nestor Rodriguez, Professor, Department of Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin, Author, When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror
"Which Way Home is a challenging documentary that will cause some students to cry and others to cry out for social justice. This story of several young persons who attempt to travel by train from Central America and Mexico to the United States highlights the tragedy and the comedy of their journeys. The scenes involving the return of a decomposed body from the Arizona desert to the boy's family in central Mexico are especially poignant. Which Way Homedoes not address the political structures underpinning undocumented immigration, but it certainly will cause its audiences to contemplate the obvious inequities in contemporary North America societies."
Robert V. Kemper, Chair, Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University
"Bewilderingly close access to its subjects...By turns frightening and poignant, it will make you rethink migration, family, home, and freedom...See it with friends who cry easily or anti-immigration family members who could use a dose of filmic compassion."
Brittany Shoot, Bitch Magazine
"Increasingly high interest in immigration issues makes this excellent production particularly relevant...Right or wrong is not the focus. The stories are about the youngsters--why they leave home and their hopes, difficulties, and final outcome...An illuminating, well-executed, and compelling film."
"Haunting...Unforgettable faces and personal histories. Unlike the majority of the abundant documentaries about US/Mexican border issues, Cammisa's film, while profoundly sympathetic to her subjects (she rides the rails right along side of them), steers clear of polemics and the over-heated rhetoric...Which Way Home is an exceptional documentary...If I had my way, I'd make the entire Arizona legislature watch it twice. Highly Recommended."
Gary Handman, University of California Berkeley, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Which Way Home conveys a profoundly disturbing sense of the futility and hazards involved...These stories are presented with unvarnished straightforwardness...Powerful viewing indeed...Highly recommended."
Reed Johnson The Los Angeles Times
"Tremendous - eye opening filmmaking."
Erik Price, Esquire
"Taps into the same concept and themes of Sin Nombre, except it's all real and it's all heartbreaking to watch...A truly captivating documentary, that doesn't carry an agenda...it brings you to the front lines of a war we know very little about and turns the audience member into an expert. But, like with most documentaries, what becomes of that new chunk of brutal information is entirely up to you. My advice: Turn to the person next to you and tell them there's a great film they need to see."
Erik Davis, Cinematical
"An unflinching look at the world of Central American child migrants."
The Wall Street Journal
"Without resorting to any background narration, Which Way Home raises questions about cross-border immigration policies and the macro-economic causes that propel people from struggling countries to stream into developed ones."
Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times
"Tackles the almost unfathomably complex immigration issue by zooming in on some of its youngest victims."
David Hinckley, The New York Daily News
"Some of them make it. Some of them don't. But all of them remind us what it truly means to be brave and literally chase after your dreams."
"Dramatically and pictorially pulls its weight...a reverse-angle on the many documentaries about decamped mothers or fathers who toil in New York or Los Angeles to send cash back to families from whom they are exiled."
Ronnie Scheib, Variety
Includes three versions of this program on the same DVD: two versions in Spanish with English subtitles -- the 83-minute original version and a new 63-minute version -- plus the 83-minute version in Spanish. Plus scene selection. All three versions have been bleeped to cover a few profanities. If you would rather see the 83-minute original unbleeped version, click here.
The film's website
Awards and Festivals
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, Academy Awards®
Emmy Award, Outstanding Informational Programming - Long Form
Best International Television Program, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards
Best Documentary Nominee, Film Independent Spirit Awards
UNICEF Prize, Havana International Film Festival
Audience Award, Documentary Feature, Cine Las Americas International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize for Human Rights, Traverse City Film Festival
Best of Festival, Columbus International Film and Video Festival
Youth Vision Award, United Nations Association Film Festival
Jury Award, Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival
International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam (IDFA)
Tribeca Film Festival
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
Los Angeles Film Festival
Karlovy Vary Film Festival
One World International Film Festival, Prague
Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Interactive Media Festival
International Human Rights Film Festival, Mexico City
Global Visions Film Festival, Edmonton
UNICEF 's Convention on Rights of the Child Film Festival, Amman
WATCH DOCS/Human Rights in Film, Poland
Sedona Film Festival
New York International Latino Film Festival
Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival
North Carolina Latin American Film Festival
Ambulante Film Festival: Xalapa, Veracruz
Human Rights Film Festival, Sarajevo
International Film Festival & Forum on Human Rights, Geneva
Istanbul International Meeting of Cinema & History Film Festival
Marda Loop Justice Film Festival, Calgary
Montréal Human Rights Film Festival
Morelia International Film Festival, Mexico
Open Doek Film Festival, Belgium
Refuge in Films, London
Zacatecas Film Festival, Mexico
Africa, Asian & Latin American Film Fest, Milan
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival
American Public Health Association Film Festival
Underground Cinema Micro Festival, Caracas
CNEX Documentary Film Festival, Taipei
Oneota Film Festival
Eau Claire Progressive Film Festival
Central America/The Caribbean
Latin American Studies
Latino and Chicano Studies
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"Despite the subject matter -- terrified children, many who haven't seen their families in years -- Cammisa never gets sentimental, and instead lets those closest to the subject do the talking."
New York Magazine
"Exceptionally effective filmmaking."
Jennifer Merin, About.com
"What comes out of the film is a message of hope, as there needs to be a serious discussion about immigration policy by both sides of the border. Having a situation where so many children are risking their lives to try and come here is pretty unaccetpable. Thankfully, Which Way Home is a film that informs and inspires - as the first step in creating real change is to give people the knowledge of what is actually happening - and that is an incredibly hopeful thing."
Gina Telaroli, TakePart.com