Debris (Desecho) | Short Film Review
By ASHLEY Maniw (March 17th, 2019)
Directed by: Julio O. Ramos
Written by: Julio O. Ramos, Lucas Mireles
Produced by: Julio O. Ramos, Lucas Mireles
Key Cast: Tenoch Huerta, Karren Karagulian
The short film Debris uses a single moment of violence to explore larger truths about human labour and human trafficking in the United States. Featuring tight camera work and natural performances from the cast, this short film presents a grim finale that feels unfortunately too relevant in today’s world.
The film focuses on labourer Armando and his small crew as they’re finishing construction work on a beautiful, and expensive, mansion. While things seem to be going okay, there’s also tension between the builders as they work to complete the project as quickly as possible. The tension culminates in an accident and Armando needs to figure out how to rectify the situation without compromising his morals.
Debris is nicely shot and has a realistic, stark tone throughout. The camera work is very well done. The use of close tracking shots helps the audience drop in to the world and pick up on nuances that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. It also adds claustrophobia to the film and heightens the tension, urgency and helps provide an overarching sense of dread throughout to the whole film.
Director Julio O. Ramos has an astute eye and gets solid performances out of all of his actors. The tight camerawork and excellent acting allows the story to unfurl easily without a lot of dialogue, also adding to the mounting dread as the audience watches the situation spiral out of control towards the film’s dark finale.
Not every character is likable, and they don’t have to be. The realistic characterization and moral ambiguity of the situation and the lead characters creates a dynamic that feels all the more realistic.
With his eye for detail and humanistic touches, Ramos shows a lot of promise as a director. Debris is not only technically well-done, it’s a film that has compassion for its characters. It feels contemporary and relevant and tells an important truth that hasn’t been explored and exposed as much as it should be.
Human labour trafficking is something we, as a society, are aware of but it has also been underreported in the news and in media. With the current politicized rhetoric surrounding immigration and immigrant labour, this is an extremely important conversation to have. With film being one of the most accessible forms of art, Ramos is filling a void that currently exists in contemporary film, especially those that come out of North America.
While the film does fall into certain tropes that are present in the thriller genre, the story is too important and relevant to ignore. The best films take things that we know about and hear about and give them with a human element. And while this situation may feel out of the norm for North Americans, it’s a harsh and violent reality that many people in our communities face every day.
Film and art should connect us to a human truth. Debris may be labelled as a genre film, but it’s real and relevant and uses violence to get at a more important reality - that everyone’s lives are not valued equally in this capitalist society and that’s a tragedy.
- Ashley Maniw