Crime & compassion
A father’s search for his missing son illuminates the hows and whys of modern slavery in American Crime.
American Crime Season 3 Thursdays (from 17 August) M-Net (*101) 21:30
Stereotype shattering drama series American Crime (2015-current) is back for a third and final season centred on how crime exposes the complexity of the US’s class, gender, moral, cultural and racial divides – on a uniquely compassionate individual level. “The main message I always want to get across every season is that we’re not as isolated or fragmented as we think,” says series creator John Ridley. This season’s focus on modern-day slavery starts when rich Mexican father Luis Salazar (Benito Martinez) illegally crosses the Mexico-US border to work undercover as a migrant labourer while searching for his missing son. “In this case, it’s not a specific crime but how a country uses people and how people are ‘dispensable tools’,” says Benito.
OURSELVES AND OTHERS
It’s a season that will resonate heartbreakingly with South Africans because of our own border issues. “There’s this xenophobia, this feeling of ‘It’s you or me and only one of us can win. If I take care of you, I won’t be able to take care of myself. Let’s close the borders, let’s kick the others out. If they’re different, they’re no good’,” says lead star Felicity Huffman. This season she’s leaving her confidence behind to play downtrodden Southern Housewife Jeanette Hesby, who’s shocked to discover that her family is abusing illegal migrant labour to keep their farm’s costs down. “She has an awakening. She struggles and ultimately she fails,” hints Felicity.
LABOUR OF LOVE
As Louis, Benito plays the outsider who sees the effects of the Hesbys’ cost- cutting measures which, when combined with US immigration policy, allow a kind of slavery to flourish. “We need to examine the human toll on our society, our food markets, our sex industries. You can argue that farming or prostitution or some people that work as nannies – all their rights have been taken away is a form of slavery,” says Benito, who hopes that above all, the series will encourage viewers to feel compassion for the “invisible” people whose labour enriches our lives.
Jeanette (inset) and Luis’s paths cross thanks to modern-day slavery.