DER Documentary

On the Other Side

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by Nozomi Ito, Aoife Nugent, Peter Scheehle, and Allan Shinohara
color, 51 min, 2007

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Each summer, Jamaican migrant farm workers flood the sleepy towns of rural Massachusetts, arriving to work the tobacco harvest—the staple crop of the region and the last to rely solely on manual labor. Traveling 3,000 miles, they spend up to eight months out of each year working amongst the vast sea of tobacco plants and suspended high above the rafters of the sheds where the plants are hung to dry.

On the Other Side, the first documentary from B-Line Films, follows this group of Jamaicans through the highs and lows of the tobacco season, where they must make the best of a life far from home and cope with the mundane and often unpredictable nature of farm work. After enduring 80-hour workweeks in the race to harvest the tobacco, their feelings of pride and accomplishment become short lived, as tensions rise when keeping steady work suddenly becomes difficult. Their journey culminates with the bittersweet end of the season, when returning home to their families means leaving behind the surrogate family they have been part of for so long.

Media coverage of migrant workers tends to focus on the sensational—inhumane working conditions, poor housing, or other forms of exploitation. The story we discovered is far more subtle. Told in the workers' own words, On the Other Side rises above the political to focus on the often-overlooked human face of migrant labor. What emerges is an inspirational story of sacrifice and love of family; of hard work and dedication; of bitter isolation and loneliness.

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Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Roving Eye Film Festival, Rhode Island, 2006
Opening Night Selection, New England Film and Video Festival, Boston, 2005
Society for Visual Anthropology/American Anthropological Association Conference, San Francisco, 2008

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts