Porvenir, Texas – Not What I Expected

Rating (1.5 out of 5)

Summary: I like documentaries, so for me to not enjoy the short one hour film is surprising. Scott often tells me that in a documentary, the facts of the case tell the story not, the documentarian creating a specific point of view for the audience. In this case, we were being told what to think, rather than having the facts laid out for us to reach the same conclusion.

Plot: The story of an execution of 15 innocent men in the city of Provenir, Texas in 1918.

Detail: The documentary uses reenactments, but the same couple over and over. The use the same set of pictures over and over. They zoom into different areas of the picture, in a half-hearted attempt to improve the visuals. It became repetitive and hard on the viewer.

They did a nice job of giving a little detail and history behind the conflict with Mexico and the United States/Texas at the time. They laid a factual foundation for why the massacre happened which was great.

Once the massacre occurs the story loses momentum. It was if they didn’t know where to take the story. Where did the families without husbands migrate too afterwards. There is a large reunion of the descendants in the end. Could we recreate their trek and journey? It appears they all continued to be citizens of the United States? Why did the remain in the US? So many basic questions that had they been asked would have made this so much better.

Not once was their a map indicating where Provenir was located in Texas. Don’t know if you have looked at a map of Texas, but it is large and shares a long border with Mexico. Then to show where all the descendants spread too, now that is fascinating.

An Anglo American who lived in the village and documented the massacre. They interview one of his descendants. What they don’t do really well is linearly telling the story of what actions he took. The documentary infers he was persecuted for telling the truth but felt like that was rushed. Did he hand down the story to his family?

The best part of the documentary came from the white historian who knew the history of the conflicts and the massacre. He questioned if he was a white farmer, solider or Texas Ranger, if he would have participated with the men on the massacre that day. This the most provocative question from the movie. It is easy to look back and say the actions of those men are horrific. It is difficult to confidently state, if I was in there shoes, would I have acted differently. There are many actions by leaders today that make me wonder, what actions would they have taken then and now.