Jose Gutierrez did in fact live a short life. His experiences, however, dictate otherwise. Constructed with a profound amount of intricacy, Heidi Specogna’s “The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez” retraces each determined step of a life cut tragically short during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Gutierrez was killed mere hours into the war, becoming the first America soldier killed during this conflict. He was born during a war, raised in a war, and sadly, killed in one too.
Jose was born in Guatemala in the midst of a civil war. His parents died at a young age, and he is separated from his sister, forcing him to adapt to a life on the streets (amid 300,000 other homeless children in this country). The disturbing reality of homeless children in Guatemala during the late 70s, and the sort of lives they lead at such a young age is shocking. Finally, he has a place to call home. Even still, during the next few years he bounces back and forth from the streets to the foster home as he searches desperately for his long lost sister.
The narrative switches direction midway through, as Jose embarks for the United States, and follows some women as they travel through Mexico to make their way to the border by hopping on a moving train. It couldn’t be more dangerous (as displayed when Specogna turns the camera toward a group with various limbs lost due to an accident with the trains) but it’s a price they are willing to pay for a chance at a better life.
Specogna did her homework to make sure nothing was left out of this man’s horribly short life. “The Short Life…” is one of those docs that takes the life of an individual and surrounds it with other people’s stories that are just as absorbing.