A 3 Minute Hug
Following hot on the heels of Living Undocumented, Netflix returns with another migration-fueled documentary in A 3 Minute Hug. Capturing the emotional moments during an unprecedented event in Texas, A 3 Minute Hug is a thought provoking film, one playing on ideas of family, love and migration but like Living Undocumented before it, does little to actually delve into the reasoning and informative rationale behind why these people were denied asylum to begin with, preventing more than a surface-level wave of emotion to flood in.
After an opening segment involving phone calls between Mexican migrants, an instrumental montage sees a group gathering together with big signs to spell out the trending hashtag – hugsnotwalls. We then see the families given a strict amount of time to hug and embrace one another – 3 minutes to be precise – while the entire event asks big questions around the humanity of this charitable idea. And it is heartbreaking too. Playing on the emotional element of this reunion, long shots linger between family members as tears well up and families fight to hold in their emotions.
Why were these people separated? Why were they refused asylum? What are their stories? Who are these people? All of these questions and more buzzed around my head while watching this and I can’t help but feel others will have the exact same reaction after watching this. Having done a bit of research online, these are all intentional questions to have and the lack of dialogue is specifically designed to play on the emotions, with Director González keen on letting the powerful imagery of the film speak for itself.
Ultimately, this plays out as a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, those aware of the event and political landscape of the US will probably get more out of this but those with no knowledge around what’s happening will ultimately see this as another emotionally charged documentary lacking context. Don’t get me wrong though, there are some very emotional moments here and whether it be a baby embraced while tears flood down a Father’s cheeks or an entire family wishing each other well, these moments work perfectly with the classical score and certainly get the message across.
The sound design throughout the documentary is excellent too, as the early music cuts out to allow silence to filter through during the lingering embraces between family members.
When the dust settles on this one, A 3 Minute Hug is a thought provoking, fleeting documentary film that provides little context around what’s happening and attempts to use visuals and music to tell a story, with mixed results. While the general camera work and cinematography is artistic enough to keep you watching until the end, with no background around who any of these people are, it’s difficult to garner whether this film is designed to show the true nature of humanity and how beautiful it is, or point fingers at the political landscape in the US.
Ultimately, A 3 Minute Hug is an emotional but fleeting experience, screaming out for another 30 minutes of content to give this some much-needed depth. It’s certainly not a poor film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s also not a particularly informative or educational documentary either.