CINEASTE Magazine – Spring 2009 Issue
By Michelle Robinson
If the 109th Congress's failure to pass real immigration reform marked new heights in legislative ignominy, its fall-back "Border Security" plan-the quixotic Secure Fence Act that authorized a 700-mile barrier between the United States and Mexico--struck pay dirt. Pointing to rights violations, habitat fragmentation, and the destruction of local economies in the wake of this federal intervention, director Wayne Ewing's documentary The Border Wall makes clear that the invasive species most dangerous to the American Southwest is the Department of Homeland Security. The film focuses primarily on the grim effects of the 2006 Real ID Act, which furnished Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff with the "sole discretion to ensure expeditious construction of the barrier'--in essence licensing a smash-and-grab job in service of what one Brownsville, Texas resident calls the reds' "razor wire welcoming motif." Chertoff's lesser infringements read like Bush-Administration business as usual: Homeland Security filed suit against Dr. Eloisa Tamez for refusing to relinquish centuries-old family property along the border, while Riverbend Resort, a nearby vacation spot for well-heeled snowbirds, went untouched. In the Arizona desert, however, where undocumented immigrants regularly die from exposure, the stakes are far higher. Here "No More Deaths" activist Daniel Millis was cited for littering when he left water for debilitated migrants, even though Project 28, a Boeing-engineered radar technology designed to alert border patrols to the presence of so-called "illegals," polices the region's three government-approved water stations. The expensive and inefficacious militarization of the border has drawn its share of public derision; midway through The Border Wall, Representative AI Green (D-TX) quips, "Since 1995, how much have we spent on B.S.?" Ewing's urgent dispatch from the Rio Grande scrupulously tallies the costs.
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The Border Wall
Although illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States has moved to the back burner as a political issue (now that the country is suffering an economic crisis and job opportunities are swiftly disappearing), the subject remains a major concern in the American southwest, where a plan to construct a wall along the border with Mexico is still extremely controversial. Wayne Ewing’s film interviews a number of individuals, mostly from southern Texas, who are against building the wall for various reasons. In addition to general opposition from political and social activists (many of them Hispanic), several interviewees raise specific objections: a local historian argues the wall will destroy his community’s bicultural heritage; the president of the Brownsville branch of the University of Texas protests the wall will divide her campus; preservationists, environmentalists, and members of the Fish and Wildlife Service discuss the negative impact the wall would have on the region’s delicate ecology; and farmers complain of the ill effects on their produce businesses. Even elected officials, such as the Stetson-wearing mayor of Eagle Pass, express irritation over the peremptory way that the federal government has seized right-of-way over public and private land without due legal process. Proponents (more sparsely represented) include California politicians Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo, who are seen here in a public meeting arguing in favor of building the wall. Also featuring useful maps and graphics, The Border Wall presents a local perspective on a project that many see as a simplistic, hugely expensive answer to a problem that deserves more thoughtful discussion. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)
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THE BORDER WALL
"Wayne Ewing’s new film- The Border Wall- takes us down to the border to explore this issue from the citizens’ point of view, bringing us to the frontlines of this battle as it’s intensified over the past few years, and talking with the people most affected by erecting a massive barrier between us and Mexico."
Read the full review here.
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WALK THE LINE, DOCUMENTARY AIMS TO RAISE IMMIGRATION AWARENESS
The Brownsville Herald
December 1, 2008
""There's a lack of understanding of this issue outside of the border region," said Ewing, whose work includes a series of documentaries on Hunter S. Thompson. "We tried to make a film that takes them there...to the core of the issue."
In his attempt to bring viewers to the frontlines, Ewing filmed immigrants going around the border fence in California. He interviewed Eloisa Tamez about the El Calaboz property her family has owned since the 18th century, which is now embroiled in a land condemnation lawsuit.
But the film is more than an on-the-ground glimpse of the fence's realized or potential impact on immigrants and border communities. It's also a window into the policies that have made the barrier a reality. Without Congress' willingness to reallocate $400 million dollars after the project ran out of money, the fence would have remained incomplete - a point "The Border Wall" makes clear."
Read the full review here.
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"Ewing highlights the issues at play, showing that in effect the wall does not prevent illegal immigration it merely displaces it and makes the journey from Mexico to the US more dangerous and open to criminal manipulation. Desperate Mexicans seeking a higher standard of living are now forced to attempt perilous journeys through the mountains or desert and the result is an increase in deaths. Since the journey is now more difficult it has become more expensive and many criminal organisations have become involved in the trade."
From "Celluloid Dreams", read the full review here.