The film
Frozen River is a moving surprise. I’d never heard of it, but once we got our Netflix going, there it was to be considered. It is such a relief to see a film that shows the true anguish of poor Americans, to acknowledge the anxiety and poverty in which so many Americans live. I especially appreciate the relationship that develops between the white woman, working at a crummy, low-paying job to feed her boys, and longing with all her heart for a “double-wide” trailer home; the down payment of which has been gambled away by a husband who has disappeared, and the Mohawk woman who has lost her child to her husband’s family after his death by drowning. That they team up, reluctantly, to make some money by becoming smugglers opens a window on a world I had not thought much about. How do the millions of “aliens” get into the country after all? Who helps them, and why? Even more pressing: how are they received, how are they treated once they get here? This film is a stark memo to the oblivious that slavery has perhaps never been over, only newer slaves imported. The acting is so excellent the “characters” feel real. There is also the wonderful “aha” that happens when realization dawns on the white woman: that the quickest way to be treated like a person of color, a native American in this case, is to be poor. But that the solution is not to flee from this belated understanding, and suck up to the common oppressor, but to embrace and strengthen the solidarity. A radical film by serious filmmakers.

©2009 Alice Walker

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