Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"This is a straightforward observational film, which captures the searchers as they go about their business"

According to CNN, there were more migrant deaths along the southern border of the US in 2021 - 557 - than in any prior year on record. Every person who loses their life is, of course, connected to wider families - some of whose voices we hear at the start and end of Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and co-director Maite Zubiaurre's SXSW-winning short documentary, which is also on the Oscar documentary short film shortlist.

They are heard on recorded messages to the Eagles of the Desert/Aguilas del Desierto, a non-profit group of volunteers who search the borderlands for the missing loved ones and have rescued 92 people since their foundation in 2012. There are many who are not so lucky but as Guevara-Flanagan's film shows, it is just as important for the volunteers to be able to offer families closure by finding their loved ones' remains.

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This is a straightforward observational film, which captures the searchers as they go about their business, forming a line in order to ensure they don't miss clues to a person's fate. The volunteers' hats and water bottles all speak to the intense heat of the area, so that the director doesn't have to spell out the nature of the environment. While more on the background of the Aguilas themselves would be welcome, the directors strike a strong emotional note. For the most part, the camera watches quietly, allowing the viewer to feel the hope, empathy and shock of those on the search mission and consider these tragedies away from the mass of statistics, inviting us to grieve for them as individual losses just as the families they have left behind will do.

Reviewed on: 12 Jan 2022
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A snapshot documentary of the work of volunteers who search for missing migrants near the Arizona border.

Director: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre

Writer: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Nico Sandi, Maite Zufiaurre

Year: 2021

Runtime: 14 minutes

Country: US


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