Two Americans isn’t a fairy tale. Two Americans doesn’t have a happy ending. But Two Americans may be one of the most important documentaries you’ll ever see, especially if you live in Maricopa County.
The Americans in this story are 79-year-old Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and 9-year-old Katherine Figueroa. Arpaio, the obvious Goliath in this story, is armed with a badge and a powerful position of authority. While Kathy, our David in the story, is equipped with the power of her faith and love of family.
Though Arpaio has spent a great deal of time in front of cameras, the documentary takes us behind the scenes and gives the audience a closer look at what guides Arpaio. Though one may expect to see a sheriff motivated by the desire for good to triumph evil, this film highlights a sheriff who speaks of justice but seems driven by ego and an obsession with fame.
We see a man who brags about spending $20,000 on his teeth to make himself look better on television and frets about makeup that makes him look old on camera.
We see a man who spins a tale about gun battles in Turkey, about single-handedly taking down crime operatives, and winking about his participation in torture.
We see a man who becomes irate, declaring, “It’s MY money,” when citizens question the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ continuous payout of millions of taxpayer dollars in lawsuits against the Sheriff’s department.
We see a man who once regarded undocumented workers as unimportant in the fight against crime only to make it the focus of his office after realizing how much media attention he could gain.
We see a man who cannot recall important conversations or details about one of his most important units, the anti-corruption squad, while under oath in the Andrew Thomas trial.
Compare this man to the other American, the little girl whose parents were arrested while working at a local carwash (a business that had employed them for years).
Here we see a little girl who is terrified, who does not understand why she isn’t allowed to hug her mother when she visits her in jail and fears that she, too, will be arrested, even though she is an American citizen.
We see a girl who prays every day, putting her faith in Jesus and trusting He will ensure her parents stay safe.
We see a little girl who is loved by an extended family who does everything in their power to try and bring this little girl’s parents back home.
We see a child who, despite her fears and her small stature, refuses to remain silent and speaks on behalf of families torn apart by a broken immigration system.
We see two parents who refuse to lie to deputies, who forgive Arpaio for what has happened, give affection to their daughter, discipline her when she falls behind on her studies, work hard to make a living, and rejoice and praise God when their family is reunited.
The contrast between these two Americans couldn’t be clearer. One American represents the best of what this country stands for – hard work, faith and family – while the other represents the part of our society we claim to disavow but empower nonetheless – arrogance, ego and infamy.
Given the choice, I’d pick David over Goliath and an America that values family over fame.
The next screening of Two Americans will take place on June 18 at the Phoenix Center for the Arts. For more information, click here.