It comes as no surprise that a country that leads and boasts the world’s leading economic power, tech innovation, sports, natural resources and attractions, and has a huge cultural influence and impact in societies around the world, has long been hailed as the land of endless opportunities. Due to the lack of prospects and regressing economies in other countries, hundreds and thousands of immigrants fight tooth and nail to get a sliver of chance to set foot in the country in hopes of attaining the sought-after American Dream.
Lumpkin, GA (2019) is a short documentary directed by award-winning filmmaker, Nicholas Manting Brewer, whose other social impact films have screened at Sundance and SXSW. The story puts a spotlight on a fading rural town in Georgia, its dwindling inhabitants, culture and history, as well as the neighboring Stewart Detention Center— a notorious prison for immigration detainees ran by the Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic). At its core, it sheds light on challenging social issues relating to immigration policies, freedom, human rights, poverty, and the divide between race and social classes.
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This documentary couldn’t have come at a better time, wherein unrest and racial injustice are gravely affecting society and taking the lives of the innocent, it functions as a looking glass that allows society to understand the life beyond their own privilege. It serves as a wake-up call for those who have the power to use their resources to change the unfortunate circumstances and living conditions that other people, especially undocumented immigrants, have to live with on a daily basis.
The documentary also raises awareness and exposes the lapses of the country’s system and inhumane treatment of people who only came to the country with good intentions. Most importantly, it brings us deeper into the ugly side of the American dream we would otherwise still be blinded to if it weren’t for the initiative of this documentary to reveal what’s beneath the surface. It is worth noting that the cinematography, albeit simple and straightforward, beautifully captured the essence and atmosphere of the town and its people. Whether it’s intentional or not, the use of long takes and the gradual progression of the narrative excellently mirrored and evoked the sense of stillness and desolation of the place, truly making every facet of it come alive.
While the documentary is packed with informative and thought-provoking information, it lacked the remarkable emotional moments that would exceptionally elevate the narrative, particularly Jorge’s story, the undocumented immigrant who was detained and separated from his family who are American citizens. Not only should the recollection of his tragic and traumatic experiences at the center be exhibited, but also featuring his family throughout the documentary would give that much needed connection and heart that would leave an indelible mark to the audience.
With its strong universal themes, Lumpkin, GA has the potential to be transformed into a full-length narrative to fully develop and flesh out these important social issues and ultimately give us a more personal look into the daily lives of the immigrants and the community. Needless to say, this documentary deserves to be heard and recognized especially in today’s social climate wherein thousands of people who have been suffering and bearing the same cross for years due to political indifferences and injustices, desperately need the society’s collective help so they can enjoy the liberty, rights, and privileges that the American dream has preached and promised.