‘The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez’


The end of this German-produced documentary informs us that Hollywood bought the rights to the life story of the titular USMC corporal, killed by friendly fire on the first day of the Iraq War, yet it’s hard to see how anything uplifting could be made from his 28 years of hardship. Born into Guatemalan poverty, the glue-sniffing street kid was briefly sheltered in an orphanage, then traveled 2,000 miles alone to the U.S. border. Crossing over at age 22, José was so malnourished that he passed for 16. After foster care and high school, he decided on the Marines as his ticket to citizenship (thanks to a 2000 act of Congress) and became a so-called “Green Card Soldier,” one of over 30,000 in the military today. But with only a few letters and family photos, director Heidi Specogna never brings her subject to life.