Univision Combines Exploitation Film about Immigration with Exploitation Campaign of Trump

By Jerry Kammer on April 19, 2016

An exploitation film is one that seeks to cash in by presenting a sensational and shocking story that plays on deep-seated fears or portrays lurid extremes of human behavior. Some examples are "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Cannibal Holocaust", and just about any movie with Zombie in the title. Another doozie is "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!", which is described as the story of a trio of sadistic go-go dancers who "break free from the nightclub where they perform and race out to the desert to stir up a little mayhem."

Mayhem in the desert was one of the topics of Sunday's "Al Punto" program on Univision. Host Jorge Ramos introduced "Desierto", a just-released Mexican exploitation film whose marketing strategy features the internationally notorious comments about Mexican immigrants of exploitation presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Ramos presented the movie's trailer, which shows a group of Mexicans crossing an immense, barren desert just north of the U.S. border.

We hear Trump's infamous description of Mexican immigration to the United States as a sinister procession of criminals and rapists that "has got to stop, and it's got to stop fast." As we hear those words, long-distance rifle shots drop one of the migrants, then another. Then we see the rifleman, a grizzled, murderous xenophobic American — ostentatiously named Sam — whose brutalization of the terrified Mexicans propels the story. The trailer ends with the story's moral: "Words are as dangerous as bullets."

This material resonates powerfully with Jorge Ramos. His conviction that racism and xenophobia are the driving forces of opposition to illegal immigration is a central theme of his nightly newscasts. Ramos fixates on reports that confirm his conviction with the obsessiveness of an exploitation film director showing close-ups of bullets tearing into human flesh.

On Sunday, Ramos talked with "Desierto" director Jonas Cuaron and star Gael Garcia Bernal about Trump's repugnant comments about Mexicans. Since then, Ramos said, "there are thousands if not millions of North Americans who feel that they have the absolute freedom to be racists." As evidence, he showed another video that Cuaron has made to promote his film. Over scenes of the assault in the desert, Cuaron superimposed comments posted on the Internet by people who cheered the sadistic violence. They called Sam a "hero". They said he was "doing God's work". They said the Border Patrol should be doing the same.

It's sadly fitting that Cuaron would exploit the notorious and malicious excess of Internet comment boards to hype his exploitation of legitimate Mexican fears about the anti-immigrant climate that Trump has legitimized. That is scandal mongering on the cheap and dirty. Cuaron's movie, with its heart-pounding, blood-drenched scenes of sadistic chase and assault is 90 minutes of cheap and dirty. From what I have seen, I'd say it is technically brilliant, thematically empty, and morally nihilistic. Sam, as a stand-in for Uncle Sam, represents all Americans in the world of Cuaron. He makes no more effort to understand legitimate American fears about illegal immigration than does Ramos's newscast.

That is why it was a welcome surprise that Gael Garcia Bernal introduced a note of borderlands reality to Sunday's conversation. He pointed to the mass-murder in 2010 of 193 Mexican and Central American migrants in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. That mayhem is widely believed to have been the work of smuggling bands that compete viciously for control of the flow of human contraband. That mayhem is only the most shocking example of the brutalization of migrants that is a normal occurrence in Mexico.

Citing that violence, Bernal said Desierto is not just a story about a fictitious rampage in the United States. He said it is part of the story of the hostility toward migrants that has erupted in other parts of the world. But he insisted that, "We as Mexicans have the obligation first to see what is happening in our country."

Cuaron who, along with his Oscar-winning father Alfonso, wrote the screenplay for the remarkable hit movie "Gravity", is obviously a talented film-maker. I look forward to the day when he applies that talent to a serious study of the most important issue of Mexican-American relations.