Directors: Carles Bosch and Josep Maria Domenech The film: Albuquerque, 2001: Mericys Gonzalez has just arrived in town to join her sister Misclaida. The trip to New Mexico is daunting. It has taken Mericys, a recent migrant from Cuba, a great deal of time and effort to locate Misclaida, whom she hasn't seen since she left home for the US in 1994. The last time the siblings communicated, Misclaida was relishing her new life in a respectable town in Connecticut. But when she finally emerges to meet Mericys, she's a broken drug-peddler living in squalor. Such is the finale to Balseros, a documentary that follows the lives of the Gonzalez sisters and five other Cubans who - along with thousands of like-minded compatriots - hurled themselves into the stormy Caribbean in September 1994 in a desperate dash for what they saw as a life of prosperity in the land of the free. The title - which translates as 'rafters' in Spanish - refers to the term given to these illegal immigrants, whose most common means of escape was on makeshift vessels built from planks of timber and the inner tube of truck tyres. The mass exodus was brought about partly by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who for two weeks in the summer of 1994 ordered his border patrols to allow free access to the seas for the flotillas. US President Bill Clinton was forced to revoke a long-running promise to take in all Cuban migrants and close access to American shores. Out of the seven protagonists trailed by Spanish journalists Carles Bosch and Josep Maria Domenech, Mericys is the only one who didn't make it. Everyone else is rescued by the Coast Guard, and eventually given residency in the US after a year's internment at the Guantanamo naval base. The great escape might give even the most detached viewer an adrenalin rush, but it's when they finally land on US soil (or, in Mericys' case, when she returned home after her failed attempt) that the film really springs to life. Bosch and Domenech lay bare the struggle facing the balseros after they set foot in what they thought was paradise. Misclaida fares the worst, as she pursues her own desires - exemplified by a fragment in which she berates her husband for not buying a car to take her on a night out - and sinks into infidelity, divorce and finally a wayward existence in New Mexico. Her downward spiral is mirrored by the unfortunate circumstances of Rafael, whose new life is derailed by a car crash. Then there's the ruthless Oscar, who rapidly casts aside memories of his family in Cuba in an attempt to make a splash in New York, but finishes up leading a nondescript life in a small Pennsylvanian town. The extras: The only extra of note is a timeline of the balseros crisis. A more in-depth assessment of how it fits into the decades-long impasse between Cuba and its superpower neighbour might have been helpful to many viewers. The verdict: A humane, effective piece that powerfully illustrates the lengths to which some people will go in pursuit of a better life.