Fantastic Fest 2010 Review: UNDOCUMENTED

James Wallace

by: James Wallace
September 25th, 2010

Rating: 4/5

Writers: Chris Peckover, Joe Peterson
Director: Chris Peckover
Cast: Scott Mechlowicz, Alona Tal, Peter Stormare, Noah Segan, Kevin Weisman

UNDOCUMENTED centers around a group of graduate students (Scott Mechlowicz, Alona Tal, Kevin Weisman) who attempt to document America's issue of illegal immigration. And what's the best way to document something? Why, a documentary, of course! And so the group sets out to make their thesis film by quite literally putting themselves in the shoes of native Hispanics as they try to illegally enter the country, poor in their pockets but rich in their dreams of a better life in America. Imagine an episode of Dirty Jobs...gone horribly wrong.

What begins as an observational documentary soon turns to participatory as the truck carrying the students and their subjects is hijacked by a ragtag band of self-proclaimed "patriots" who look to protect the purity of the good ole' U.S. of A. They are led by a sadistically cordial masked figure, simply called Z, played with a great villainous vitality by character actor Peter Stormare. There's a nice bit of irony and commentary there in having a Swede play this role.

The group of star-spangled extremist fundamentalists plan to cleanse their captives and send them back to the country they came from, in one or several pieces. All while forcing the film crew to chronicle their every barbarous act along the way. But the students have their own plans, taking their original idea of using their camera as a weapon to a whole new level.

It's important to not let the fact go undocumented that this film does not play to the modern day torture porn genre as the premise may sound. Rather, UNDOCUMENTED looks not to exploit but explore the hot button issue from a rather extreme, yet interesting view point. Hell, I'm not even sure you could classify it as horror. In fact, the actual horror of the film comes out of the fact that these issues and injustices are very much plausible and prominent.

Rooted very much in reality - ever heard of the Republic of Texas? - and playing to an attentive audience considering our the current state of affairs surrounding the issue, UNDOCUMENTED is more of a social commentary than anything. One that never bludgeons you over the head with its views but certainly includes a fair amount of beatings over the head, keeping you on the edge of your seat and angry in its every minute.

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  • Robin Peckover

    This is a great summary. I could not watch parts of this movie at the premiere screening in Austin but it’s a story that needed to be told…and told….I’d be interested to hear what the Hispanic opinions are on this movie. It reminded me of The Most Dangerous Game where the hunter gets bored with hunting animals and turns to hunting humans.

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