is a movie by John Sayles. Its themes include healing, recovering the past in order to move on, hybridity, and cultural convergence in one place. The story takes place in a town called Frontera, or the border, and moves from the present to the past and back to the present with a pan of a camera, showing the present is directly and indirectly linked to the past. Sayles is saying that the old Westerns of Hollywood are dead, and his movie is the new and truer version. He is honoring the old movies, but creates the New West with all of its conflicts and buried secrets. All the while he lets the viewer know that his movie is still a myth - it's only a film. He talks about the film as a film and nothing more.
The movie begins with a two men going through the land with a magnifying glass. Visually, we are in the open West, a firing range. One man is looking for old bullets and the other is learning about the vegetation. One of the first lines is "When you live in a place, you should learn about it." Symbolically they are looking to discover the uncovered history, as is the main character. The hero in this movie is the truth-seeker. The West is an opportunity to learn something about our past. The theme that recurs is that we can get to the conflicts of history, but we have to dig to create an alternative history, but once we do we can let go of this history. Once you deal with our past, it won't haunt us anymore. We may be wounded from the knowledge we uncover - we won't be the same - but there is a redeeming factor.
The schoolroom scene is especially powerful. The teachers, parents, and citizens are fighting over the school curriculum. The argument is whether or not to include Latino history in schools. The scene exemplifies the complexity of a situation when two cultures come together. One character Otis must get an education of his people outside the classroom. He must get it for himself, since the classroom excludes a large part of the residents' history. The comment on education is that it often screens out the truth, making it superficial. Most importantly, the conflict shows that real history is important. There is a need to break out of the myth, and in fact, the only ones the myth satisfies anymore are the local bigots.
The movie is a tool of healing itself. Art can heal. We know this when we find out the man from the beginning uses the bullets and makes art. We also know this at the end of the movie. At the drive in, which is ruins of the past, we learn the truth about Sam Deeds and Pilar - they are half-brother and sister. She says at the end "Forget the Alamo." By digging for the truth in history, we are able to put it in the past. This scene also says that we are all brothers and sisters - that we're part of the same family. Like I said before, conquest makes many different people part of the same story. When recounting history it is important to include all perspectives.