Miko Revereza’s film No Data Plan (2019) opens with a scene at an Amtrak platform, where commuters wait in various poses: squatting over their luggage, shifting weight between their feet, leaning over to squint at the track’s end on the horizon. A train comes—even its arrival is sluggish—and the crowd crawls toward the doors.
Revereza, who holds the camera, boards the train heading from Los Angeles to Chicago, the first leg of a trip to New York. His journey is prolonged by his circumstances: without the documents to fly, he must take the train, and due to fear of ICE surveillance, he has deactivated his cell phone plan. The seventy-minute film combines footage of the train trip with subtitles of the artist’s reflections on his family, such as how his mother used two phones, one of which was a burner for discussing their family’s immigration matters. Revereza captures many migrants’ psychic state of anxious boredom through editing that is both intentional and incidental: prolonged focus on light flickering across the back of a train seat emulates panic-induced blinking, and an abrupt cut to a black frame seems to result from shoving the camera aside as a conductor passes to inspect identification. No Data Plan expands the genre of the train film, integral to cinema since its onset, by using the momentum of travel to address immobility in relation to class position and legal status.
Avant-garde slow cinema—key examples of which are Andy Warhol’s 1960s films Sleep and Empire, hours-long deadpan sequences of a sleeping poet and an iconic building—often approaches time as a minimalist thought experiment; the director submits viewers to extreme duration. Though No Data Plan is similarly demanding in its relative inactivity, its dominance is less macho than political. Time is less an aesthetic device than a socially determined type of infliction.
No Data Plan will be available on the Criterion Channel through January.