Every so often it helps to sit back and look in your own backyard for that brief glimpse at genuine beauty. El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico have existed as twin cities for centuries, sharing culture, language, and history while residing on opposite sides of a border. These are not wealthy cities, either. Several years ago, Juarez was nominated most dangerous city in the world, while things were quieter in El Paso despite rampant poverty. Bowie (pronounced “buoy”) High School sits almost in the center, educating children on both sides of the border in the hope that they will move on and succeed. Director Matthew Ogens tells the stories of three of these students, who discovered sports as a positive outlet and a way to reach their full potentials.
“…these kids take their struggles head-on, whether preparing for playoffs or nearly failing in class…”
Meet high school seniors Shyanne and Erik, and junior Francisco. Shyanne wrestles as a way to vent the frustrations of living with her disabled ex-con mother. She knows her mother loves her, yet she fears the trap of falling into the same groove and seeks any way out, including enlisting in the military. Erik lives in Juarez, but being an American citizen, he attends Bowie. He struggles in his classes, nearly failing while acting as team captain of the soccer team. Finally, Francisco loves baseball. He spends hours tossing the ball around with his father, a Mexican citizen banned from crossing the border, meaning he can never see his son play a game. To make extra money for his family, the teen wrestles as a luchador in the hope that one of the activities will grant him enough success to feed his family.
Ogens reveals these stories with raw compassion. Through the eye of his lens, we see these kids take their struggles head-on, whether preparing for playoffs or nearly failing in class. Fortunately, their coaches and teachers act as surrogate parents, steering them to success in the way the parents can’t. Honestly, these mentors come out as heroic as their students, their compassion, tough love and sincerity being things that cannot be faked for celebrity.
“…the neighborhoods become integral characters on their own…”
Furthermore, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. Honestly, there’s no reason for a documentary to look this beautiful, but it does, and in doing so draws you deeper into the story with an artistic vision surpassing even the greats of narrative cinema. In fact, the neighborhoods become integral characters on their own as their influences shape the destinies of their residents.
When you come from privilege, it’s easy to forget that adversity is a key component of strength. What does winning mean when you barely know what it is to lose? These kids get it, better than most adults. We’re lucky to have them on our team.
Home + Away Directed by Matthew Ogens. Starring Francisco Mata, Shyanne Murguia, and Erik Espinoza Villa. Home + Away premiered in the Viewpoints category at Tribeca Film Festival.
5 out of 5 stars