The Harvest


There’s not a wasted frame in U. Roberto Romano’s documentary The Harvest, in which he illustrates the real costs of the produce on your grocer’s shelves. Volatile political issues (immigration matters, the imploding economy) all play out in the day-to-day struggles faced by three Latino kids and their families as they criss-cross the country “chasing harvests.” They gather tomatoes, strawberries, etc. for just pennies a pound, and it is backbreaking work. Romano doesn’t beat you over the head in order to break your heart or prick your conscience; there’s no overbearing music to manipulate your emotions, or showy editing to bombard your senses. The drama (unlike the produce) is organic, and doesn’t need showboating to grab you. Romano, using long takes and quiet moments, focuses his camera on the micro (educations that fall by the way side; familial tensions that simmer) as it’s shaped by the macro (racism, poverty). The kids at the film’s center—twelve-year-old Zulema; sixteen-year-old Victor; fourteen-year-old Perla—haven’t chalked up much classroom time, due to helping their families in the fields, but they’re insightful and eloquent when breaking down the forces working against them. One of the film’s most powerful moments: a family shopping at a market when the mom observes that they can’t afford the produce they helped harvest.