Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border

Directed by Rodrigo Reyes

Release Year: 2013
Running Time: 80
Color Type: Color
Country: Mexico, U.S.
Language: Spanish, English (subtitled) [audio]
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Directed by Rodrigo Reyes

Reyes' provocative essay film re-imagines the Mexico/U.S. border as a mythical place comparable to Dante's purgatory. Leaving politics aside, he takes a fresh look at the brutal beauty of the border and the people caught in its spell. By capturing a stunning mosaic of compelling characters and broken landscapes that live on the US/Mexico border, the filmmaker reflects on the flaws of human nature and the powerful absurdities of the modern world. An unusual border film, in the auteur tradition of camerastylo, Purgatorio ultimately becomes a fable of humanity, an epic and visceral experience with powerful and lingering images.

Educational Reviews

"At times harrowing, at times hauntingly beautiful, Purgatorio exposes the politics of and around the US-Mexico border not so much by explicitly addressing the technical intricacies of migration regimes, but by capturing experiences in the border region on a human scale. In its display of the widespread exposure to different forms of violence on both sides of the border, the film also succeeds in depicting the peculiar interplay between the presence and the absence of government authorities that structures 'la frontera'. This film should be of interest to everyone in the social sciences and the humanities who teaches in migration and border studies." Benjamin Nienass, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, California State University San Marcos

"I include the film Purgatorio in my class on Migration, Diaspora and Transnational Belonging. The film features diverse experiences and attitudes found along the US and Mexican border. Purgatorio offers a fresh view of the border. It is aesthetically beautiful and offers a stirring humanistic commentary. The film complements other academic resources on the phenomena of migration and borders. My students and I found the film valuable, and I appreciate how it inspires a thoughtful discussion of what it means to be human." Robin De Lugan, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of California, Merced

Critical Acclaim

"A searing, horrifying, at times starkly beautiful documentary ode to the netherworlds surrounding the U.S.-Mexico barrier" Andrew Barker, Variety

"This haunting, beautifully photographed documentary presents the human side of its incendiary topic" Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

"An elegiac and cinematically shot poem filled with emotional narration and iconography" Christine Davila, IndieWIRE

"Specific and sublime." Cynthia Fuchs, Pop Matters

"Beautifully photographed, exquisitely crafted film with poetic overtones and a wide sweeping vision." Alan Berliner, Documentary Filmmaker


  • Jury Award for Best Documentary, NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL Jury Award for Best Documentary, THIS HUMAN WORLD Jury Award for Best Documentary, SAN DIEGO LATINO FILM FESTIVAL Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary, ANN ARBOR FILM FESTIVAL 25 New Faces of Independent Film, FILMMAKER MAGAZINE Finalist, HBO-NALIP AWARD

Trailer EMB