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Review: Fruits of Labor (2021)

Fruits of Labor Review


Immigration is at the center of many films of the SXSW Film Festival catalog, with many rich and diverse stories to amplify the reach of the difficulties these immigrants face in their lives to a wider audience. Fruits of Labor is one of those documentaries that touches your heart and makes you see for yourself the reality of exploited young men and women and their struggle to support their families on a daily basis. Working on a strawberry factory, Ashley Solis is a teenager trying to make it through working in the fields and finishing her high school education, eager to enroll in college in the near future. But with her mother struggling to provide for Ashley and her brothers and sisters, she doesn’t have much of a choice but by pushing herself to the limit to ensure a stable future for her family. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has issued an illegal immigration purge to deport as many as he possibly could to their home countries, and Ashley and her family are concerned they will soon become targets.

Fruits of Labor is directed by Emily Cohen Ibañez and it’s a beautiful message to the Mexican immigrants that are working hard to provide for their families and put their own personal future on hold. Ashley’s story is as hard as it is endearing, even if there could be a more direct approach to how these strawberry farms and factories operate on the inside. Ultimately, the audience starts to develop a close relationship with Ashley and her exhausting journey to finish high school and dealing with the other problems regarding her family, as her younger brother is reluctant in starting to work, and her mother’s immigration situation. It’s a handful for such a young woman, who is spending probably the most important years of her life dealing with problems no regular teenager has to endure. It’s ultimately inspiring, and the audience is intimately feeling the struggle while watching Ashley’s daily life. Fruits of Labor is simple in its formula, focusing on portraying the hardships of surviving in a foreign country and making the ultimate sacrifices to help the family to put food on the table. But even if we are doubtful (like Ashley is) of her accomplishing what she always ambitioned for herself and enrolling in college, we are blessed with the fruits being harvested after so many years of hard labor.

Fruits of Labor is not very elaborate in its structure, but holds on tight to what makes it so special for audiences. It could be even more effective if it explored with more depth some of the elements that make Ashley’s life so different from any teenager, like the strawberry fields and factory where she works and how they handle their workers, and letting Ashley’s teachers, for example, give their imput on how these hardworking teenage immigrants are dealing with school and what could be accomplished in order to avoid their daily exhaustion. But Fruits of Labor is an actual love letter to all the Mexican immigrants facing these difficulties and Ibañez’s style of filming creates an instant connection between the audience and the main subject of the film. It’s an example that shows how simplicity and humbleness eventually are enough to cling and absorb the public in order to feel up and close to the daily battles of this brave community.

Sweet, engaging and straightforward to what it intends to show, Fruits of Labor is a film that comes out as inspirational and essential to the world and that may intice some discussions about how ethical it is to take advantage of desperate immigrants in the USA and forcing them to work extraordinary hours to forge a new life and path for themselves, besides the fact that these are mainly minors who are being deprived of the educational investment they desperately need to achieve to become successful young men and women. It’s thought provoking and a delicate theme that needs the attention of the government and Fruits of Labor may well be its window in order to do so.

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Title: Fruits of Labor

Original Title: Fruits of Labor

Director: Emily Cohen Ibañez

Runtime: 76 min.

Trailer | Fruits of Labor