IFC Films couldn’t even describe its own movie accurately.
The indie studio’s “No Man’s Land” follows a ranching family facing the consequences of a porous U.S.-Mexico border. The Greers are just trying to stay financially afloat, but constant incursions onto their property put that survival in doubt.
The conflict comes to a head when, during a tense exchange, two people are shot.
Mild Story Spoilers Ahead:
The ranchers aren’t patrolling the border like the Minutemen, the self-appointed guards trying to enforce border laws in the face of federal apathy. They just want to retrieve the cattle lost when illegal immigrants cut their fence.
Tell that to IFC’s marketing department, which describe the film like this:
Border vigilante [emphasis added] Bill Greer (Frank Grillo) and his son Jackson (Jake Allyn) are on patrol when Jackson accidentally kills a Mexican immigrant boy. Bill tries to take the blame but Texas Ranger Ramirez (George Lopez) sees through the lie, spurring Jackson to flee south on horseback across the Rio Grande to become a gringo “illegal alien” in Mexico.
That’s just wrong. Bill Greer isn’t a border vigilante, nor is he or his son “on patrol.” The patriarch is a hard-working man trying to keep his family, and finances, safe. He’s not looking for bloodshed or trouble. That’s abundantly clear to anyone watching the movie.
He just wants his property back. Each cattle lost will set the family back $2,000. Can we assume IFC’s marketing team saw its own movie?
The official IFC film description gets something else wrong, too.
Chased by Texas Rangers and Mexican federales, Jackson journeys across deserts and mountains to seek forgiveness from the dead boy’s vengeful father (Jorge A. Jimenez), as he falls in love with the land he was taught to hate. [emphasis added]
The Greers aren’t a hateful family, nor do they pass any animosity onto their teen sons, at least not that we see or hear. The family drove across the border for one simple reason:
“We’re going to Mexico and get our property back,” Grillo’s character says.
Need more proof that the Greers aren’t acting out of hate? One sequence finds the father listening to a radio show where either the host or a caller is excoriating illegal immigrants. The voice in question uses a slur for Mexicans, and Grillo’s character quickly snaps the radio off.
If he agreed with the sentiment wouldn’t he keep listening?
The film also shows the other Greer son (Alex MacNicoll) showing empathy for the illegal immigrants coming to America. He shares the story of fish who keep taking a fisherman’s bait despite knowing the consequences. The immigrants flooding into the country, he says, share something with the fish.
Both are so hungry they’re willing to risk everything for food.
Time and again we’re shown how vital the ranch is to the Greers, particular young Jackson (Jake Allyn, the co-writer and star).
Jackson: “This is our home, Ma. I don’t want to lose it.”
Monica Greer [Andie MacDowell]: “Saving our home is not your job.”
The context couldn’t be more clear. This family could lose their family business, and more, if illegal immigrants keep encroaching on their property. Conversely, the Mexican immigrants shown in the film are kind-hearted people desperate for a better life.
Need even more evidence the Greer teens haven’t been taught to hate? The film opens with illegal immigrants invading the Greer ranch. They’ve sliced open the family’s cattle fence and the Greers rush out to chase them away before more property damage is done.
The intruders could be hard-working immigrants seeking a short cut into America, or they’re part of a cartel seeking mayhem north of the border.
The Greers can’t know for sure.
Jackson finds one Mexican immigrant, who appears to be a teen boy, hiding in the family’s chicken coop with hen in hand. Jackson lets the teen escape rather than snitch him out or try to capture him. He later lies to his brother to ensure the immigrant leaves their property without incident.
It’s an act of empathy, not hate.
One line suggesting Jackson had a negative view of Mexico comes after he spends a number of days in the country alongside several Mexican citizens.
“Mexico’s not like I thought it was … I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot.” The line is clunky, no doubt, and taken by itself could be evidence of his hardened heart. The rest of the film strongly contradicts that interpretation.
So why did IFC mischaracterize its own movie? Was the studio playing into critics’ hard-left sentiments? If so, they needn’t have bothered. Critics grossly mischaracterized the movie all on their own.
The far-left ScreenRant.com gets even more wrong in its review.
No Man’s Land is largely uninterested in exploring the Mexican characters’ stories, which transforms the film into an unbalanced drama that lacks nuance.
No. The narrative focuses mainly on Jackson’s plight, but we spend plenty of screen time with the father of a Mexican boy accidentally shot and killed, the vicious coyote seeking revenge for the lad’s death, various Mexican citizens who meet Jackson and the Latino sheriff (George Lopez) trying to make sense out of the senseless killing.
The story also explores the somber pageantry behind a Mexican funeral, giving the procession both ample screen time and palpable respect.
Then again, if the white screenwriters had written the story from the Mexican perspective they might be accused of either cultural appropriation or not handing the project over to a Latino creative team instead.
The Screen Rant review continues…
The family is struggling, but wrongly assumes the Mexicans crossing through their land are drug runners.
Everything changes when Jackson shoots and kills a young Mexican boy who was passing through with his father Gustavo (Jorge A. Jimenez) and a group of migrants. On the run, Jackson crosses the border into Mexico to hide.
The first sentence isn’t completely accurate. The second ignores the fact that a Mexican teen ignites the violent confrontation between the Greers and a group of illegal immigrants by stabbing Papa Greer in the shoulder.
Seems a critical point to leave out, no? Several film critics also left out the stabbing to make it look like the violence came from the Greers’ side.
Other critics complained that the movie didn’t tell the story THEY wanted to see.
But the story still centers a white male experience and hero’s journey, a question that starts to nag as the plot leaves a few Mexican characters, including a child, dead.
The Film Stage uses “No Man’s Land” as an excuse to attack Texas and the United States. Talk about a broad brush approach.
The premise demands that a grieving father accept Jackson’s contrition even though Jackson’s country, state of Texas, and indoctrinated prejudice should never be excused.
What a hyperbolic attack. And, again, what prejudice? Every Mexican character Jackson meets he treats with respect.
The reviewer then slams the Greer family for attempting to retrieve its valuable property.
The sole reason Jackson was even there that night was because he believed he had business to finish. He believed he had to help save his family’s ranch.
Well … yes. Yes he did. Mexican immigrants break U.S. laws because they want a better life. The ranchers in “No Man’s Land” try to retrieve their cattle because they otherwise might go bankrupt. Why would a critic sympathize with one and not the other?