Esperanza tells the story of human beings being inhuman to each other. In this case the title character (Giselle Marie Muñoz) is an undocumented immigrant, and the man next door only acknowledges the dehumanizing label. Thus, the letter of the law reinforces his hate, and he’s assured no consideration should be given to this subspecies. Awfulness in the extreme, but the actual dramatic presentation in the 11 minute short lacks depth and fails to rise to the seriousness of the subject matter.

We open in a very rural area of America. The greens are completely unmanicured, and the subsuming brown of the lifeless dirt patches and unpaved trails highlight the poverty that the Brandon Torres cinematography seeks. Entering our picture against a rusty wire fence and old pick up truck is Mitch (Kenneth Wayne Bradley), and in keeping, he is laboriously working a shovel through the brush.

Seemingly resigned to his fate, Mitch is clean shaved, wears a sleeveless denim shirt and screeches redneck like his nails have just been applied to the very blackboard where he failed out of school. The angry look of a white man who is sure he’s being displaced by ever present minorities is also an easy read on Bradley’s face, as if the actor is holding back a volcano. There’s no problem projecting a vicious leer at his old Jewish neighbor Tova (Laurie Coker).

As if it’s all Tova’s fault, the film is charging headlong into the subject matter, and the lack of subtlety is just beginning. Esperanza joins the old woman on the porch, and Mitch intervenes like it is his Proud Boys patriotic duty. “Hey, what the hell’s going on over there?”

Less is more, another piercing glance would work better and send a more ominous message. His engine now running hot, Mitch’s next move probably doesn’t give him a position on the Oath Keepers strategic planning board. “Who’s that wetback woman on your porch?” he demands.

All up in our grill, there’s no chance for us to follow a more realistic descent, and after the man of the house steps in to defend Esperanza, Mitch really hits bottom. “It looks like you’re hiding somebody Jew-boy.”

No way to drop any further, the setup feels contrived. So with only one way to go, Mitch must rise. His daughter is pregnant, absent a partner and Brenna Jones’s reticence makes us feel the teenager’s doubt. Suddenly Mitch is the most wonderful, supportive father in the world.

The drama then moves next door, and the reaction is also unrealistic. Eli (Luke Hill) is in a panic and pleads with his wife to send Esperanza off. “We will be arrested,” he reasons. “We will lose our home.”

Hill has got the passion down, but the discourse fails him. In other words, this isn’t Nazi Germany or the jails would be filled with all the employers of undocumented workers. Therefore, a more relevant vehicle to elevate the stakes is needed here.

We do get the reaction of Eli’s mom, though. As if she carries the pain and suffering of the Jewish people in her speech and demeanor, Coker doesn’t hold back in shaming her son. She’s pretty good on the deadpan too when the moment calls for it. Even so, when she shames her son with the shared history, the lesson still seems out of touch.

Inevitably, the pivot point arrives. The daughter goes into labor, and her baby has not turned. Fortunately for her, a baseline has been set. Mitch has revealed his supposed core in the loving affection of a dutiful father, and his prejudices seamlessness fall in favor of all else.

Without a hint of shame, he rushes to the neighbors for help and is met by the competing factions. Acting as the evil counterpart of the political agenda, Eli is not very receptive and his aloofness unconvincingly implies that inhumanity can be a two way street.

On the other hand, the wife (Christia Madacsi) and Esperanza are there to represent the beacon for human hope. Both actresses convey the sentiment effectively, but once again, the set up negates the good intentions. As a result, the blackboard is screeching in the other direction.

Nonetheless, these two angels of mercy join this birthing party gone awry, and the urgency definitely comes through. In the end, though, the delivery that we’re meant to actually rejoice in is predictable, and the humanity portrayed is more a caricature than a real character transformation.




Esperanza tells the story of human beings being inhuman to each other. In this case the title character (Giselle Marie Muñoz) is an undocumented immigrant,

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