The village of Alberto, Mexico, is losing 80 percent of its population (90, by another count) to illegal immigration into the United States. Rather than let their town disappear, enterprising locals transform it into a tourist destination by creating a simulated border crossing called La Caminata (roughly “The Trek”), complete with coyotes, torchbearers, and border patrol. Mexicans flock to Alberto and pay $18 each to replicate the travails of the crossing (cuts and bruises included; arrests extra). The result? Over 100 new jobs at La Caminata and fewer people leaving. Stanford film prof Jamie Meltzer captures the experience in 15 succinct minutes, about half of which is in harrowing green night vision. —AW
Leavenworth, WA takes the potentially fertile culture clash between American attitudes and old world values in a sleepy Bavarian-themed tourist town and transforms it into an insufferable bore. Rote tracking shots of suburban developments fade into torturous montages of area residents posed in front on their houses; poor audio throughout fills the soundtrack with numbing white noise. Pacing is a constant concern—the camera lingers over iconic images like cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers as director Hannes Lang attempts to infuse each object with meaning and portent. An interview with a teenager toward the end ties a neat bow on all of the visual non-sequiturs: “We have no culture here, so we had to take somebody else’s.” Leavenworth, WA might benefit from the same. —NG
Nutkin’s Last Stand
Introduced by daffy Victorians in the late 19th century, the American eastern gray squirrel is decimating England’s red-squirrel population. In this short, Nicholas Berger details the efforts of a predictably wacky cast of Lake District red-squirrel enthusiasts who are trying to save reds by blowing to smithereens as many gray squirrels as they can find. “Flying rodents, that’s all they are,” says Save Our Squirrels’ Paul Parker of the interlopers, “good for nothing apart from shooting.” Man gets off lightly here—development and the disconnect that lets animal lovers blast selected God’s creatures go unremarked. Like many paeans to Britishness, this campaign is salted with nostalgia, weirdness, and borderline xenophobia (“Maybe we should round them all up and send them back to America,” suggests one townie, speaking, one hopes, of squirrels, not the people loading up on Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle statues at the Beatrix Potter house) and started way too late to make a difference. No argument that this all sucks for Sciurus vulgaris, but you know what, folks? The pound is next. —AB
At noon on Friday, June 19; also on Saturday, June 20, at 10 a.m. at AFI Silver Theatre.