What’s the most you’ll do to give your family a better life? Would you miss out on watching your child grow up? Would you move thousands of miles away from a partner you’ve created a life with?
This is the central crux of a new, entrancing hybrid documentary/fiction work from directors Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda. Entitled I’m Leaving Now, Cordero and Croda introduce viewers to Felipe Hernandez, an older man and undocumented Mexican immigrant who has called Brooklyn home for the better part of 15 years. A rather upbeat gentleman despite his circumstances, Felipe works as a sort of janitor at a local synagogue while collecting recyclables people discard with the vast majority of his earnings going back to his family in Mexico.
Having missed almost the entirety of one of his sons, the weight of this odyssey weighs heavier and heavier on his shoulders, with his routine promises that he’s about ready to head back home becoming something of a gag among his new, adopted family in New York City. Things also take a hit once Felipe discovers that a majority of his earnings have been ostensibly lost, and he begins a flirtatious relationship with a woman named Dionicia that feels at once fruitful and yet ultimately doomed.
The power behind this story is two fold. Structurally, the film attempts to break as many molds as it can. No interviews are done in your typical, talking-head style, instead finding Cordero and Croda opting for a more lyrical, fly-on-the-wall style. Time and space are played with loosely, with no signifiers as to where the viewer is in either, giving the film’s pace an oddly sensorial feeling, as if this isn’t so much a documentary as some sort of filmed dream analysis. The lack of structure surrounding Felipe’s life also adds a great deal to this overall atmosphere, the film taking on a malleable aesthetic that feels half lived-in and half intricately staged.
And yet, nary a moment feels false on an emotional level. With immigrants finding it harder and harder to not only feel at home in their new countries but feel even the least bit safe, the transitory nature of the film’s narrative feels both stylized and yet incredibly fitting. At what point does one completely lose track of time and space when every paycheck or bottle return may be their last? The migrant experience is one that’s become both a hot button issue politically and also an incredibly fruitful one for documentarians, this is a textured and evocative hybrid documentary that attempts to bring a more impressionistic feel to the lives these men, women and children lead. It’s absolutely a far cry from a film like Gianfranco Rosi’s masterful Fire At Sea, for example, but that doesn’t mean I’m Leaving Now has any less cultural import. At 74 minutes in length, Cordero and Croda’s film is a propulsive, thought-provoking meditation on life in a transitory state. Viewers may not learn a lot about this man or his life specifically, but through a profound sense of intimacy they may find something even greater under this film’s proverbial hood — empathy.