Price: $210.00

    Code: 2254

    Directed by Heidi Specogna
    2006, 90 or 58 minute version
    Purchase: $210 | Classroom Rental: $125

    José Antonio Gutierrez was one of the 300,000 soldiers the U.S. military sent to war in Iraq in March 2003. A few hours after the war began, his picture was broadcast all over the world: he was the first American soldier to be killed in Iraq. He was also a so-called ‘green-card soldier' — one of approximately 32,000 non-U.S. citizens fighting in the ranks of the U.S. army.

    The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez tells the moving and nearly unbelievable story of a one-time street kid from Guatemala, who headed north along the Pan-American Highway — full of hopes and desires for a better future — ultimately to die an American hero far from home. It does so, by retracing his path — from Guatemala through Mexico to the United States — and by meeting the people who accompanied him on his journey: his friends from the street, the social workers at the orphanage, his sister, his foster family, and his comrades at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

    But the film also introduces us to people who are repeating José Antonio's odyssey everyday. People who day after day join the endless stream of emigrants — with no identity, no papers — equipped with nothing but their ability to work hard and their willingness to forever turn their backs on their home and family.

    A powerfully resonant film, The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez is an intimate portrait of an American soldier that reveals a great deal about our current immigration crisis and the lure of the American dream.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    * World Premiere, Sundance Film Festival, 2006
    * Official Selection, Locarno International Film Festival, 2006
    * Official Selection, Munich International Film Festival, 2006
    * Official Selection, Latino International Film Festival, 2006
    * Official Selection, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2006
    * Official Selection, Los Angeles International Film Festival, 2006
    * Official Selection, Havana International Film Festival, 2006


    "A compelling portrait.... Offering plenty of discussion material, this documentary personalizes the illegal-immigrant experience and the war in Iraq."

    "Now, more than ever, The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez should be seen here in the U.S."
    Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

    “A well-researched, graceful film."
    Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

    “Illuminating.... An artful film."
    David Ansen, Newsweek

    “Filmmaker Heidi Specona artistically reconstructs Antonio’s history by documenting both the lives of young boys living on the streets of Guatemala and adults stealing into our country, allowing their struggle to illuminate Antonio’s story just as Antonio’s illuminates theirs."
    Slant Magazine

    “A superb miniature of globalization."
    Patricia Aufderheide, In These Times

    “This documentary has a clear and succinct narration, a sharp appearance, and gives an overview - and can be used as a starting point for discussions — on the issues of migration, street children, and U.S. backed military operations whether it be the war in Iraq or the 30 year Guatemala civil war that left 300,000 children homeless and with out families. Recommended."
    Educational Media Reviews Online

    “Director Specogna tells this vertiginous story in a skillful mix of narration, interviews with social workers, orphanage staff, the marine’s platoon sergeant, a platoon fellow Guatemalan, U.S. foster families, and a recreation of segments of Gutierrez’s life. We are exposed to the beauty of Guatemala’s countryside, and harrowing scenes of present-day street children… Impressive camerawork shows men and women as they hop on trains in Mexico, risking life and limb to be among the few who enter the United States. The film offers powerful images… [and] gives us important historical context."
    The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History