Job-Shadowing Mexico’s Child Laborers 

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The Inheritors
Directed by Eugenio Polgovsky

Eugenio Polgovsky embeds for the length of a workday in sites across Mexcio for The Inheritors, cutting together a single day of menial labor with a focus on the very, very young: from the babies left on blankets under tomato plants by their picker parents (one leaves a bit of foil dangling from a vine as a toy); to the cute tykes sent toddling down to fetch murky river water with yokes of plastic bottles; to the preteens who chop cane, weave blankets, herd donkeys, smash rocks and lay out clay to make bricks, or whittle figurines with a machete and pocketknife (when the whittler cuts himself, he wraps his finger in scotch tape).

Polgovsky cuts between a girl sewing seeds by hand as her parents walk a wooden plow through rocky soil, to the literal bean counters who weigh kilos of produce—a cross-sectional edit that contrasts rural sustenance lifestyles with the iceberg tip of a far less self-contained marketplace; the mix of hand-carved and –painted figurines and woven blankets on the one hand and reused soda bottles on the other similarly gets at the mix of tradition and newer, less localized industrial, economic and environmental practice.

The portrait of work is immersive, and comprehensive. We see kids cinching bundle of wood, their fingernails black in close-up, then driving donkeys but dawdling in a field to do somersaults. It’s so fascinating to see how corn, wood, rocks and tools are used for different tasks, and how naturally the kids adapt to manual labor, that it’s only the occasional glimpses of the very old, their spines almost horizontal to the ground, which remind us with a start that The Inheritors is a movie about cyclic poverty staking its claim to a new generation.

Opens September 9 at Anthology Film Archives

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