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The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez cover photo

The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez 2006


Distributed by Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Produced by Gerd Haag, Peter Spoerri, Heidi Specogna
Directed by Directed by Heidi Specogna
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 02/23/2007

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Charmaine Henriques, Northwestern University Library, Evanston, IL

The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez recounts the life of the first U.S. casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jose Antonio Gutierrez, was one of the 32,000 Latinos soldiers sent to Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. He joined the Marine Corps when President George W. Bush offered fast naturalization to green card holders in exchange for enlisting in the United States Army. Born in the 1970’s, he started his life by fleeing the military massacre of 200,000 Indians in the Guatemala Highlands to become a homeless street kid in Guatemala City. As the documentary states he was born into one war and died in another.

After his death, the media portrayed Jose as an illegal immigrant who wanted nothing more than to become a marine to give back to the country that gave him so much. In reality he was a person who was running out of options and did not see a future for himself. In interviews with his sister, social workers, foster family members, fellow soldiers, and the director of the orphanage where he lived for a time, a portrait is painted of a talented and lovable young man who took a perilous journey, at times riding between the axels of 14 different trains from Guatemala to Los Angeles, to make his American dream of becoming an architect come true. Through the retelling of Jose’s life the viewer can see into his world by being introduced to those who are taking his same voyage and are still living his existence.

At times this documentary is leisurely paced, but it 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 without families.