I don’t think anyone can argue that there’s a crisis at our southern border. In the documentary, Chèche Lavi, filmmaker Sam Ellison captures the predicament of two Haitian men awaiting their U.S. asylum claims in Tijuana, Mexico. The men are Laureus “Roben” Gasgasha and Jamesy “James” Dorcelus, and they are two of thousands of refugees who left their home country of Haiti after the 2010 Earthquake. Many went to Brazil where labor was needed for the Olympics, but afterward, the jobs dried up.
In 2016, a rumor spread that the United States was granting asylum to any Haitians who showed up at the border. They were wrong, and now thousands sit in Mexico with the fleeting hope of a better, stable life in the United States. The phrase “Chèche Lavi” means “looking for life” in Haitian Creole, and this is what we find Roben and James attempting to do.
“…a rumor spread that the United States was granting asylum to any Haitians who showed up at the border.”
When the two men arrived at the border, they immediately applied for asylum status. It can take several months before their day in court, so in the meantime, they wait. What happens while they wait? That’s the question Chèche Lavi sets out to answer. For James and Roben is finding jobs here and there to make money for food and shelter. But mostly in the film shows the pair as they talk, walk around the city, and wait.
Conversations between the two start out fairly mundane with subjects like their favorite basketball team. One likes LeBron James, and the other likes the Orlando Magic. Soon the ordinary turns to frustrating as both men’s lives are on hold. They can do nothing until their court appearance, and they live in limbo. Mind you, this is early 2016 before the last U.S. Presidential election. Their situation doesn’t exactly get better in 2017 as new construction of a border wall commences.