“Soy Nero” in competition Torn-up green card biographies

Soy Nero
Soy Nero | © Rafi Pitts

A young Mexican crosses the desert alone with a gun in his hand. Berlinale-goers who’ve seen Rafi Pitts’ “Soy Nero” will remember this image.

This German-French Mexican co-production is the only Latin American entry in this year’s Berlinale competition. Iranian director Rafi Pitts portrays the drama of illegal immigrants to the US who join the army as a shortcut to obtaining a green card.

THE Drama OF DEPORTATION

“I have seen lots of war movies,” explains Johnny Ortiz, who plays Nero. “But not a single one about the fate of those who join the US Army to get a green card.” The story is based on the specific case of Daniel Torres, a young US-Mexican who served in Iraq and yet was deported afterwards all the same.

Nero succeeds in crossing the US-Mexican border without being detected by the border patrols. He goes to see his brother again, now living in luxurious Beverly Hills, where the day-to-day lives of immigrants are driven home to Nero for the first time. Undeterred, however, he lives henceforth under the name of his brother, Jesús, who procures forged papers for him.

FROM MexiCo TO Afghanistan

The scene then jumps to a checkpoint in the Mid-East. In the second half, the story develops into a war film, with insurgent attacks and frustrated US soldiers, from whom he receives the cold shoulder under a blazing sun. Nero will do anything it takes to obtain US citizenship. But even in the army he is branded an immigrant and cannot get rid of that label.

“It’s hard enough when a young man has to go to war,” Iranian director Rafi Pitts told journalists in an interview. “But when the country you are fighting for rejects you, that’s maybe the worst thing that can happen to you.” Pitts himself is from Iran, is of British descent and currently lives in Paris. So he stands for what his picture is all about: origins, migration, culture shock and the search for identity.