Ivannia Villalobos Vindas’ film contributes towards understanding the socio-political and economical dilemmas that produce forced migration and continue to impact Central American countries.

Home in a Foreign Land is a vast documentary from 2016 that exposes the intricacies of forced migration in Central America, surveying the perspectives of those who stay in their countries and those who flee. Based on the book Exclusion and Forced Migration in Central America: No More Walls (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) by Carlos Sandoval, the narrative provides a unique scope and focus to the migrant crises, from the historical to the present. By clearly addressing the socio-political factors that continue to produce this mass displacement, such as government repression, US intervention and multinational exploitation of natural resources, the documentary promotes a contextualised and critical perspective. Striking a balance between on-the-ground interviews and an informative backstory, the filmmakers uncover moments of hardship and resistance, alongside bringing to light control mechanisms as well as acts of community solidarity.

Although the film goes on to cover more commonly seen topics, like the problems faced by people en route to the United States, the most insightful contributions are by those who remain in their home countries, struggling against their socio-political contexts. Director Ivannia Villalobos Vindas makes these interviews resonate throughout the narrative, as they put in a specific context the strenuous circumstances that led many to escape from war and dispossession in the first place. As these communities strive for a more just society, their efforts are put to the test by governments who favour foreign interests over the well-being of their own people.

The documentary illustrates how foreign companies move into different Central American countries, aided by neoliberal governments, without regard for the negative effects they have on local populations or the environment. In the case of Guatemala, the multinational hydroelectric and mining industry has taken advantage of the lack of regulations, leading to multiple cases of human rights violations, such as forced land evictions which echo the experiences of indigenous people in the colonial past. Notably in 2013, an Ontario Court allowed for the first time the prosecution of a Canadian mining company by foreign claimants due to the increasing cases of human rights violations in Guatemala.

An important segment of the narrative is dedicated to the Casa del Migrante de Saltillo (Migrant’s House of Saltillo), located in Mexico’s border state of Coahuila, which functions as a spot where travelling migrants may find shelter and community support. The moments shared in this location help understand the stories of hope and anguish alike, as migrants struggle to cross the border into the United States whilst confronting harsh control mechanisms.

Covering these issues in broad strokes, yet with enough detail to be insightful and original, Home in a Foreign Land contributes towards a broader understanding of the socio-political and economical dilemmas that produce forced migration and continue to impact Central American countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Watch full film on Youtube (English subtitles available in settings)

Further suggested viewing:

Borders, im/mobilities, and pandemic nations (Verso Books, 2020, 112 mins).

No More Walls (Ivannia Villalobos Vindas, 2018, 7 mins)

Breaking Through Walls: Inside the Migrant Caravan (Redfish, 2018, 24 mins)