The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez

Director: Heidi Specogna

Institute History


José Antonio Gutierrez was one of the 300,000 U.S. Army troops sent to Iraq in March 2003. A few hours after the war began, he also became the first American soldier to be killed. The nightly news eulogized him as a Guatemalan boy who wanted to be an American and serve his country. Heidi Specogna's remarkable documentary, The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez, reveals another powerful, poetic story that resonates in the lives of hundreds of thousands of emigrants searching for survival today.

With two photos of José Antonio—one as a child orphan, and one in full military dress—Specogna embarks in search of the story between the pictures. She finds the people who knew him; she also finds thousands of emigrants who are repeating José Antonio's odyssey from the world of the poor to the realm of the rich. They tell their own stories of surviving desperately poor conditions and making harrowing journeys to the U.S.A. in the hope of finding a better, more livable future.

What emerges is not only the story of a war hero but a portrait of the socioeconomic conditions that shaped José Antonio's life. In The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez, one man's story becomes a sobering chronicle of the brutal world we live in today.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details


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