Immigration has been a popular subject of the Canadian public political space of the last year. With the welcoming of Syrian refugees and the election of a prime minister priding himself on an idea of national unity, nothing was said about the condition of temporary migrant workers, something MIGRANT DREAMS (2016, MIN SOOK LEE) addresses with a lot of heart.
The idea of a promised land is not very far from what Canada appeared as in the eyes of many temporary workers. Because they were brought there on limited work visas, it wouldn’t be a place for them to envision their future, but one where they would be able to build one for their loved ones. They were promised money to feed their families and send their children to school, but what they would find in a country they thought to be lawful was nothing to rejoice for.
MIGRANT DREAMS follows a group of Indonesian workers in Leamington Ontario and the social workers trying to help them through their unfair work conditions. Having been tricked by a shady figure referred to as ‘’The Recruiter’’ to come to Canada, the workers must give him weekly payments ranging close to 40% of their salary (at minimum wage) to pay for overpriced rent in filthy overcrowded housing and an illegal ‘’adhesion fee’’ of 7000$, debt that they will carry home with them if they do not bend to their employer’s or ‘’recruiter’s’’ will.
Denouncing Canada’s lack of action in the respect of the human rights of its temporary workers, the 2016 documentary lives on a line between despair and hope where any actions for justice can lead to unemployment and quests for a better life turn into struggles to stay in a decent one. Contrasting the images of employees working in chemical filled greenhouses and denied the use of breathing masks to those of a marriage between two migrant women of different religions, one which would have been impossible back in Indonesia, does a lot to humanize, poignantly so, a group of people that came here with the best intentions and got nothing but trouble in return. A must see.
Director Min Sook Lee and producer Lisa Valencia-Svensson were present for a Q&A after the screening, an awesome opportunity made possible by the hard work of Cinema Politica. Be sure to attend next week’s screening, a speacil first nations double program featuring A RIGHT TO EAT (2015, JANELLE AND JEREMY WOOKEY) and COLONIZATION ROAD (2016, MICHELLE ST. JOHN).