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Cropped movie poster via Wikipedia

“A Better Life”

by Father Anthony Scannell

For some, that is: the film and the immigration issue.

With immigration such a debated topic today, anyone who wants to get to the heart of this issue is offered some insights in the film, A Better Life.

This film tells the story of an undocumented immigrant father who works as a gardener to get a better life for his son. His wife abandoned him and the boy because he couldn’t provide the luxuries she wanted in this new country. Now the teenage son has little memory of his native Mexico, and little involvement in his new turf, tempted to become a gang member, and always wanting more from his dad.

The father, after getting a loan from his also immigrant sister, buys the truck and gardening equipment from his boss, and begins hope for a new and better future. But he is soon betrayed by a day laborer who had done him an act of kindness, but is equally desperate to send money back to Mexico to support a family. The father can’t tell the police, because he is illegal, and he has to resort to whatever his wits (and his son, now eager to be part of this excitement) prompt him to do, which, in desperation, lead to his failure and deportation.

But then the story just begins again.

Basically, this is a story about a man, a true human being who loves his son and want a “better life” for him, and that is what really motivates his struggles. Only gradually does the son realize this, and value his father’s love and sacrifice.

Set in East Los Angeles, we will recognize, not only the streets and businesses and homes, but more importantly the human factors here, the humanity we share with immigrants, day laborers, people who must hide their identities and live always with the risk of being discovered, and being deported and separated from their families (4,000 every year!). And who must decide where “home” really is.

After viewing A Better Life, you will see the immigration issue differently. And you probably will never look at a gardener or day laborer the same again. This is the favor that good films can do for us.

Father Anthony Scannell

About Father Anthony Scannell

The ministry of Anthony Scannell, a Capuchin Franciscan priest, has been almost entirely in communications media. After teaching communication arts at a seminary in his native Wisconsin, he became President of Franciscan Communications in Los Angeles, producing short films for schools and spots for radio and television. He has been President of the national and international organization for Catholic broadcasting, and co-founded the annual Catholics In Media Awards and Advent and Lent Soup and Cinema. After retiring as Executive Publisher of the LA Archdiocese newspapers, he now assists at parishes in Pasadena and South Pasadena.

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