by: PRINDIE Senior Programmer ALEX KIM
Alex is a mathematics major at Princeton University, where he has also studied film theory and screenplay writing.
“You know, these immigration raids are very scary,” a man says during a phone call to the San Francisco Rapid Response Network, which provides legal services to undocumented immigrants during ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids. He laughs nervously. “They have the right to kill people, right?” And under his continued laugh you can hear the fear in his voice. He’s not just thinking about “people.” He might as well have said “me.”
Enforcement Hours is built from this and many other phone calls to the San Francisco Rapid Response Network. Some of the calls are from people worried about their families, afraid to step out of their homes or send their children to school. Others are calls of harassment. Over the course of the film, out of these one-on-one calls, a larger picture develops: how California declared itself a “sanctuary state” for immigrants; how this served to provoke ICE into focusing its efforts on California even further; how people came together to volunteer for the hotline, and how other people are seeking to tear its efforts apart.
Paloma Martinez, who directs Enforcement Hours, pairs the audio of these phone calls with images from all over San Francisco, structured in an order that reflects the passing of a day: the film begins with a shot of a telephone pole at night; it takes us through daytime as seen from a subway station, a pastry shop, the apartment of the aforementioned school-bound children; it rests for a few seconds on a shot of a street and the buildings which line it—the sun, now high in the sky, seemingly draining those buildings of all their color; and it concludes during sunset, in a haunting ending whose creeping sensation cannot easily be shaken off afterward. Every image becomes infused with the paranoia or loss that these immigrants are forced to grapple with on a daily basis. The ordinarily innocent storefront becomes a potential place for a raid; the bare walls of a house suggest a captured relative.
For me, coming from California and recognizing some locations normally so innocuous as, say, the 24th Street Mission Bart station, the film has a special resonance. It does what only truly great films do—it takes something familiar and lets us see it in a new light. And in Enforcement Hours, that light is often nothing short of terrifying.