When tackling a sensitive subject such as illegal immigrants crossing the border, the key is to make the story compelling and ring true. In the short film “Dakota,” neither of those qualities find their way to the audience.
When a border patrol officer stumbles upon an abandoned Dodge Dakota pickup, he quickly searches it for illegal drugs and, upon finding nothing, proceeds to kill more time while he handles dispatch calls and requests status updates. A typical day out on the board by all appearances.
Things take a turn when he discovers a young teen hidden inside of a hot water heater in the back of the truck who’s also carrying a backpack full of marijuana. The customary lecture ensues and instead of running him in, the officer gives the youth a chance to choose a different path for himself.
This is a film that never seems to get started. “Dakota” is never able to connect on an emotional level; instead of feeling torn on what the officer should do and wondering what the future holds for the kid, we unfortunately find ourselves not invested enough to care.