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Vol. 8, No. 3, 2009
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Robert J. Lewis
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Bernard Dubé
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Robert Rotondo
Sylvain Richard
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In This World
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Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow

Simon Brand's

Simon Brand


reviewed by


Sylvain RichardSylvain Richard is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. He gave Paraiso Travel, which sold out for its three viewings at Montreal's 2009 Festivalissimo Film Festival, 3.4 out of 4 stars. For the rest of his ratings, click HERE.


Some are caught, some get shot, some are raped; but for those in limbo it’s just another daily wage that gets paid pursuing the dream of El Norte – where billboards announcing the better life glitter high over the American dreamscape. For millions of destitute, have-not Latinos who have got nothing to lose, trading one hell for the possibility of another is not a deterrent.

Simon Brand’s riveting film, Paraiso Travel, begins in one of the many ruthless clash zones that pit-bull border authorities against hopeful immigrants looking to buck the odds and make it to the promised land.

Based on the bestselling novel by Jorge Franco, Paraiso Travel is sure to put Columbia on the map for reasons other than coca and consequences. In its no holds barred examination of the complex issues of immigration, Paraiso Travel ranks among the very best the genre has produced, which include For a Moment, Freedom by Arash T Riahi, The Same Moon by Patricia Riggen and El Norte by Gregory Nava, and constitutes must viewing for the especially American public that has been media suckered into believing that immigrants are undesirable, and that the myth-making American entrepreneur who thrives on illegal immigration is incidental to the social unrest caused by the demand for indocumentados -- the cheap wage that makes him rich and Uncle Sam poorer because immigrant revenue goes undeclared.

Paraiso -- the Spanish word for paradise -- promises to take the viewer into the heart of darkness of immigration and the pitfalls that await those for whom El Norte is the only dream in the hood.The crazy and dangerous love between Reina, played by the captivating Angelica Blandon, and Marlon (Aldemar Correa) is the glue that keeps the many strands of this idea-rich film in perspective. Once the young lovers arrive in New York, Reina goes missing and Marlon will stop at nothing to find her. What he finds instead are the many uncomfortable truths of America’s dependency on immigration (reflexively denied) as well as an unofficial, undocumented, spurned society of immigrants. Much of the film's fluid narration is skillfully supplied by the flashback technique.

Paranoid at the sight of anyone in uniform, Marlon recalls the horrors he and Reina went through as they travelled illegally from Medellin, Columbia through Guatemala and Mexico. In his quest to find Reina, he encounters many characters, some of whom try to help him establish a new life in the States -- and to forget about Reina. One of them – Milagro (Ana de la Reguera) – becomes strongly attracted to Marlon, but the latter is unable to refuse the bewitching Reina.

As this tough, compelling film unfolds, as love-struck Marlon pays dearly for his enterprise, we find ourselves asking to what end? What does he hope to gain? If not the American Dream, what is the appropriate metaphor to describe immigrants’ misplaced hopes? Is it fair to ask of the immigrant what Bob Dylan asked of his generation, many of whom drew their last breath in Viet Nam,

And how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
And Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?

Simon Brand is asking the immigrant to at least reasonably consider the hard facts on both sides of the dream. Without ever sounding preachy or sentimental, Paraiso Travel raises the toughest questions that every immigrant must answer to, either before he decides to change the course of his life forever or during the running of that course -- comprised of borders masqerading as law and orderly institutions, and trigger-tested border guards looking for an excuse to express the hunter’s gene.

That Paraiso Travel deserves the widest exposure is no guarantee that what is deserved will be gotten, so if comes to a theatre near you -- catch it before you're caught looking.

For the ratings of 2009 Festivalissimo Film Festival, HERE.
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