'Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America': Outfest Review

Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Sister Unite Productions

Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America Still - Publicity - H 2016

Likeable young activist humanizes the immigration wars.

Moises Serrano, who came to America at the age of 18 months, makes an effective crusader for immigration reform in this revealing documentary.

Two hot-button issues come together in Forbidden, a documentary receiving its world premiere at Outfest. The movie opens with Donald Trump railing against Mexican immigrants, and then we are introduced to Moises Serrano, who came to America from Mexico when he was 18 months old. Since he was not born in America, Moises is not a legal immigrant. We soon learn that Moises also happens to be gay, and in North Carolina, that presents another set of challenges. But his larger crusade is to expand the rights of undocumented people trying to survive in America. The film should prove eye-opening and inspiring to audiences.

To advance the cause, Moises has appeared at meetings all over the state, trying to give a human face to an issue that polarizes many people. He makes a most effective spokesman. Handsome, charismatic, and articulate, he certainly counteracts negative stereotypes that bedevil the immigration debate. At many of these rallies and less formal conferences, he has managed to sway people who are not anti-immigration hardliners.

The film includes interviews with his family and his boyfriend, and it focuses on some of his personal challenges. Employment is one of them, and when he decides he wants to apply to college, his undocumented status presents major obstacles. But he receives some positive news near the end of the film.

As a portrait of a confident but unassuming spokesman for a controversial cause, director Tiffany Rhynard succeeds. The film has an appealing modesty, but there are moments when we wish she had cast a wider net and placed Moises’ story in a larger context. Besides the Trump speech, there is footage of a KKK anti-immigrant rally, but the film sometimes seems a bit too narrow in its focus. In addition, problems in the relationship of Moises and his partner are treated too cursorily. This film is small in scope, but the sincerity and energy of the hero are hard to resist.

Production: Sisters Unite, Pony Productions
Director: Tiffany Rhynard
Screenwriters/producers: Tiffany Rhynard, Heather Mathews
Director of photography: Kathi Barnill
Editor: Heather Mathews
Music: Dave Merson Hess

No rating, 82 minutes