Arts, Farmworker Children, Migrant & Seasonal Workers

“The Harvest” – Children in the Fields, but Not at Play

From Movies.NYTimes.com, Mike Hale, 31 Jul 2011.

Movie Review: “The Harvest/La Cosecha”

Zulema Lopez picking strawberries in Michigan in “The Harvest/La Cosecha.” U Roberto Romano

Zulema Lopez picking strawberries in Michigan in “The Harvest/La Cosecha.” U Roberto Romano

The Harvest/La Cosecha,” an earnest documentary about child migrant farmworkers in the United States, has a muckraking agenda but a melancholy soul. As it follows a 16-year-old boy and two girls, 12 and 14, through one harvest cycle, it depicts their lives as a more or less voluntary indentured servitude and provides a detailed, sometimes heartbreaking, mostly hopeless portrait of a permanent American underclass. But the tone is never angry; resignation is the primary note, and an ability to endure that isn’t so much resilience as stubbornness.

The director U. Roberto Romano has found three smart, appealing protagonists whose perfect balance of childish yearning and maturity, rebelliousness and filial piety, feels a little too good to be true. Many American parents dream of having children who work this hard, behave this well and complain this softly. But there’s no doubting the hardships and the pervasive sense of insecurity that is so antithetical to our notions of what life in America should be. The 12-year-old Zulema, who splits her years between picking onions in Texas and fruit in Michigan — where, to be paid, she signs an adult’s name when she turns in her baskets of strawberries — asks, “Why is it suffering if I am not the only one who has to move?”

“The Harvest,” in its modest way, calls to mind “The Grapes of Wrath” but with no glimmer of a New Deal or a union, or even of better economic times ahead. Mr. Romano keeps slipping in shots of “for sale” signs in the various regions where the migrant families touch down. Meanwhile a season passes, and the winter crops need to be picked again.

Directed by U. Roberto Romano; director of photography Mr. Romano; produced by Mr. Romano and Rory O’Connor; released by Cinema Libre Studios. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes. This film is not rated.

Source: Movies.NYTimes.com, “Children in the Fields, but Not at Play” by Mike Hale, 31 Jul 2011.

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