The un­promised land

Doc­u­ment­ing life on Pa­jar­ito Mesa

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

The sun creeps palely up Pa­jar­ito Mesa, a nearly 18,000-acre tract of desolate land just 15 min­utes from down­town Al­bu­querque. Car­los Prof­fit peers out at the desert dawn from his makeshift home on the mesa. “Some­times the wind’s howl­ing, crash­ing,” he tells the cam­era. “Some peo­ple get fright­ened when they get out into open coun­try. Some peo­ple feel per­fectly at home.” Prof­fit is a cen­tral fig­ure in Jesse R. Fisher and Jackie Munro’s af­fect­ing doc­u­men­tary A New Land (Una Nueva Tierra), which plays at The Screen Thurs­day, Oct. 19, as part of the Santa Fe In­de­pen­dent Film Fes­ti­val. The film fol­lows three fam­i­lies who live with­out water or elec­tric­ity on Pa­jar­ito, as res­i­dents call it, in trail­ers or jerry-built houses among the piles of trash that city res­i­dents dump out on the for­got­ten plateau. Prof­fit ag­i­tates for recog­ni­tion from the city of Al­bu­querque, whose po­lice of­ten have trou­ble find­ing 911 call­ers since the mesa is not on the first-re­spon­der map — even though it’s been es­ti­mated that more than 1,000 peo­ple re­side on Pa­jar­ito, which is also a pop­u­lar place for crim­i­nals to com­mit gang­land-style mur­ders and leave bodies. “Who lives here?” Prof­fit asks in the movie. “I call us the un­washed and the un­pre­pared.”

In ad­di­tion to Prof­fit and his part­ner Dora Verdin, the film­mak­ers spent time with Bura, also known as Bernardo, a Mex­i­can im­mi­grant in his seven­ties, as well as his brother So­corro Iguado Men­doza. The cam­era fol­lows Bura around the desert as he picks up refuse to re­pur­pose while wax­ing philo­soph­i­cal on the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence, pon­der­ing what it is to live between two coun­tries and never fully be­long to ei­ther one. An­other strug­gling fam­ily on the mesa is made up of feisty vet­eran Vanessa Dun­can and her part­ner Mario Soto, along with their young son Di­naho, who comb the land look­ing for sal­able items to hawk along the road­side as they await a much­needed check from the VA.

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