It takes me somewhere between the space of six or so huffs of breath to climb (not walk) up a set of stairs. In that time, a young man named Jose would’ve made six or so deliveries across Brooklyn on his bike. This comparison alone should change the hearts and minds of the average Trump supporter into “allowing” immigrants (aka darker skinned folk) into this country to seek employment. If I, a strapping young man, can barely tie my shoes without grunting, why are we denying entry to those in better and more willing shape? Of course, the mindset of those who’ve been Trump’d will never shift, for they know all.
On the Seventh Day takes place the summer before Trump’s election to President, and boy does this stay with you while watching. Jose is an illegal citizen for sure, but is a hard working guy; making food deliveries across town, washing dishes, etc. These gigs take up the vast majority of his time, but he does so to make his American dream come true. The man is goal oriented, always with his eye on the ball, even if that ball is from soccer. In his free time, he participates in community soccer, where his team (fellow immigrants who live together in a small apartment) get together and have some serious, righteous and even spiritually healing fun, before heading back to their long week of jobby jobs.
At the heart of this almost documentary style narrative is community and compassion which, together, equal humanity. It seems to be understood by everyone, not just the migrants but the white New Yorkers too – everyone – that THIS is the REAL gig economy that makes America run, and it’s best to treat anyone who works these jobs this hard with some kindness and respect. Rarely do we see anyone treat Jose and his crew unfairly – sometimes frustrations come up, but it’s never unruly, unjust or based on perceived citizenship status. They’re treated, basically, like neighbors. Like fellow cogs in the machine. Like people. And for a city built on attitude like Brooklyn to be shown as understanding and genuinely humane, compared to everywhere else in the U.S., really does say something about perspective.
Trump’s near victory is never hinted at or foreshadowed, probably because for Jose, his life may not change all that much due to it. He does live under threat of being found out, but that was a risk he took to make his life better. It shouldn’t be that way, but he understands that it is as of now, and minds his time and business to an absolute. We see his routine play out in sincere detail, with soccer being not just his “escape” but his “re-entry” into his old community and culture, which is now part of our community and culture. His is ours and ours is his. Not even Trump can erase or stop that fact.
The camera often acts as a voyeur, spying on Jose and his crew from behind corners and bushes, giving us the sensation that he could, at any time, be deported. It could also be felt as the all seeing eye of the narrator constantly pushing his life and experiences into our brains, forcing us to look and understand those we tend to take for granted. However and whatever the reasoning, On the Seventh Day is no dour or depressing affair, as above everything, it is about the potential good within everyone to treat each other well and the power/strength in community, no matter how far from “home” you are. In mid 2018, this is something needed in desperate and gigantic quantities.
Jose is more than a face in the crowd; he’s a man. He’s a human. He has a life and he has love. So do his friends and family. So do New Yorkers. So does America. I have to believe this. I have to, as I huff and puff my way to the voting booth.
RATING: 5 / 5
On the Seventh Day plays at New Orleans’ Zeitgeist from July 6th through the 12th. Visit zeitgeistnola.org for tickets (they are also listed on the MoviePass app) and information on how to support the excellent programming at this venue.