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TV Review: Which Way Home/Imagine

Which Way Home, More4 Imagine, BBC1

THE troubling documentary Which Way Home began with an image of a corpse floating down a river on the border between Mexico and the United States. It didn't get much cheerier after that. The body belonged to one of the many thousands of poverty-stricken Central Americans who attempt to smuggle themselves into the US each year. Very few of them succeed, as this dispiriting HBO film made abundantly clear.

Director Rebecca Camisa focused her exploration of America's immigration problem on the plight of a group of boys desperate to begin a new life in the land of opportunity. Roughly 5 per cent of all Central American migrants are children, most of whom travel unaccompanied by adults. Their arduous journey spans more than 1,000 miles, mostly spent clinging precariously to the roofs of speeding freight trains. Joining them up there, Camisa captured incredible footage of a teeming child community on the run: one false move could result in severe mutilation or death, but it's a risk they're willing to take.

Through candid interviews with the boys and their families, Camisa showed how bad life would have to be to lead ordinary human beings to such dangerous extremes. With no prospects at home other than a continuing life of poverty, these kids were tempted by the supposed riches of life across the border, in a world they had only ever seen on TV. Some of them wanted to make money for their impoverished families, who would theoretically join them at a later date. Others just wanted a fresh start, or, in the words of one boy abandoned by his mother when he was just three years old, to "change and be someone else". It was heartbreaking to see such desperate, naive hope in the eyes of children whose lives are already vanquished.

It was at least slightly cheering to see that the Mexican government has sanctioned special shelters and a mobile organisation, which do their best to ensure that migrants are given as much water, information and medical care as possible. But these small comforts were obliterated by harrowing tales of children being kidnapped, raped and abandoned by smugglers. Camisa also visited the grieving parents of two boys who died while crossing the desert. The image of a coffin being driven back across the border towards Central America encapsulated the tragedy of this seemingly insurmountable situation.

A deep seam of anger and despair coursed through this uncompromising film, which tacitly bemoaned the injustice of a society that forces its children to risk their lives in order to escape. Another sterling acquisition for the True Stories strand, it provided a vital human dimension to an issue about which people are often far too quick to judge.

In the latest Imagine film, Alan Yentob spent a year following famed British sculptor, Anish Kapoor, as he prepared for his landmark exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. The first living artist to be given the entire gallery to play with, Kapoor relished the opportunity to splatter its walls with thick red paint (fired from a fearsome-looking cannon) and drag an immense chunk of wax through its rooms, leaving behind a slug-like trail on the floors. He claimed he had nothing to say as an artist, other than a desire to involve spectators in his enormous, tactile artworks. Yentob nodded solemnly, as usual.

 
 
 

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