Category Archives: film and video

New video on borders & migration: “We Are One”

In July 2009, I met a group of French filmmakers from Marseilles at a border wall event at the Centro Cultural de la Raza.  The filmmakers–Romain de l’Ecotais, Maxime Rostan and Guillaume Vidal–had been traveling for weeks through Latin America & Mexico, documenting border walls and migrations in the Americas.  In San Diego, they traversed the border with Enrique Morones of Border Angels, and visited the cemetery for migrants in Holtville and later took a tour down to Friendship Park.

Today they sent me a link to their video, titled We Are One, a King Size Trip Production, with music by Watcha Clan.


>The 800 Mile Wall: film challenges the deadly politics of border security

>Screening Dec 3, 2009 at Joe & Vi Jacobs Center, 404 Euclid Ave

by Jill Holslin

San Diego, CA- So far this year, 206 migrants have died in the harsh deserts of Arizona trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the humanitarian organization No More Deaths. Since Operation Gatekeeper was instituted in 1994, over 5600 innocent men, women and children have died in the attempt to migrate from Mexico to the U.S. through our borderlands, driven from their homes by the economic collapse in Mexico caused by NAFTA, and drawn here by a once-robust U.S. economy and the concentration of capital and jobs on both sides of the border.

A new film by John Carlos Frey, The 800 Mile Wall: The Deadly Reality of Border Security, puts this brutal and tragic situation in the context of U.S. border policies beginning in the early 1990s during the Clinton administration. In 1995, a new border security policy was initiated under then Attorney General Janet Reno and “border czar” Alan Bersin. (Bersin had just moved to San Diego in 1992 with his wife Lisa Foster, and in short order accepted an appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, then the position of “border czar”). The policy of “prevention through deterrence,” the brainchild of Alan Bersin, was based on a cruel logic of preventing Mexican immigration to the U.S. by upping the ante: border enforcement manpower, technology and border wall infrastructure was concentrated in four short segments in San Diego, El Paso, Central Arizona and south Texas where 70-80 percent of migrant border crossing was taking place. With these four regions secured, it was argued that the harsh terrain of impassable mountains and scorching deserts would prove an effective deterrent to further migration.

This assumption proved to be deadly, and dead wrong. While border enforcement expenditures quadrupled in the period from 1993 to 2009, migration flows did not stop; they merely shifted geographically into very same dangerous terrain that was believed to act as a deterrent. And thousands of people have died as a result. Evidence has shown that costly border walls, massive government spending on surveillance technologies like Boeing’s failed “virtual fence,” and a tripling of border patrol manpower has been met by a robust growth in the number of undocumented workers living the U.S. during this period. Only in the past two years, with the economy of the U.S. in free fall, have we seen a decrease in the numbers of workers crossing into the U.S. for jobs.

Frey’s film documents the effects of this policy, telling the story with the compassion and commitment of an insider. Born in Tijuana and raised in south San Diego, Frey brings a keen understanding and the spirit of advocacy to his work.

Join us for a screening of The 800 Mile Wall: The Deadly Reality of Border Security, and a panel discussion with the director, joined by Pedro Rios of AFSC and Kevin Keenan of the ACLU.

DATE: Thursday, Dec 3, 2009 beginning 6 PM
LOCATION: Joe and Vi Jacobs Center, Celebration Hall, 404 Euclid Ave, San Diego, CA 92114.
ADMISSION: Free. Suggested donation- one gallon bottle of water.
FOR MORE INFO: (619) 233-4114

And see also Matt Potter’s new article in the San Diego Reader Obama Taps Alan Bersin to Oversee the Border

>POSTPONED: Encuentro at the Border @ the CENTRO Cultural de la Raza



@ the CENTRO Cultural de la Raza
2004 Park Blvd SD 92104

Friends of Friendship Park present:
Encuentro at the Border

A night of photos and discussion of the border wall in San Diego, with music, dance, drinks

Mural painting by local artist Crol of

7:00 PM Slide show of the border wall in San Diego County, by Jill Holslin
Jill Holslin (along with Dan Watman and many others) has been documenting the construction of the border wall in San Diego County for over a year. She will present a slide presentation with photos of the newly constructed wall at Friendship Park, Smuggler’s Gulch, Otay Mountain Wilderness.

8:00 PM Panel discussion: Confronting the Culture of Violence
Pedro Rios, American Friends Service Committee
Pedro will discuss the roots of the border patrol’s militarization of the border and its consequences: ICE raids, detentions, the growing industry of border violence
Daniel Watman, Director of Border encuentro
Dan will discuss his work with Border encuentro, a group dedicated to fostering friendship and cooperation through social events at the border.
Jill Holslin, Friends of Friendship Park
Jill will recount the story of Friendship Park, and our struggle to keep it open to the public.

9:00 PM Music, Dance, Poetry Slam

While there enjoy TransborderArt:

FROM TIJUANA: Alvaro Blancarte, SPEL, Roberto Rosiquez, Luis Ituarte, Elba Rhoads, Luis Garzón, Libre, Chente; FROM US SIDE: Armando de la Torre, Maria Teresa Fernandez, Ricardo Islas, Guillermo Acevedo, Pablo Aztlan, Crol, Fernando Vossa, Rogelio Casas, David Smith, Eloy Torres, Christopher Oleata, WERC, Victor Ochoa, Geraldine, Mario Torero; FROM PERU: Aurelio de la Guerra, Victor Delfin; FROM MEXICALI: Juan Hernandez, Lourdes Murillo, Pablo Castañeda, Guillermo Jauregui , Fernando Corona

The exhibit runs for six weeks, during which, there will be a series of events that reflects the theme and players:


Sat & Sun Aug 8 & 9 ‘Fiesta del Sol’ on historic Logan Avenue, BarrioLogan’s Murals Intervention (Centro’s PublicArt Outreach into the barrios) featuring, direct from Cusco, Peru, Aurelio d la Guerra, painter at LaBodega (Sampson and Logan Ave.)
Sat Aug 22 Border Angels, CENTRO Cultural de la Raza Installation and manifestation/performance

The event is FREE but it is a fundraiser and we will take donations.

For more information, please contact
Jill holslin 619-804-8030

mario torero 858-774-1286

>’Sleep Dealer’ stars Luis Fernando Pena, Leonor Varela



Rating: 3 stars (good)

By Michael Phillips | Tribune critic
June 5, 2009

Present-day Tijuana is one of the most compelling places on earth. It’s a symbol of the push-pull co-dependency of America and Mexico, a city defined by a fence that runs straight into the Pacific Ocean.

Alex Rivera’s overstuffed but intriguing feature debut, “Sleep Dealer,” takes a speculative leap into Tijuana’s near future, imagining the next evolution of cheap labor. Its protagonist, Memo (Luis Fernando Pena), comes from a farm in Oaxaca. The region’s water supply is controlled by a federalized, heavily armed dam, and the price of a jug of clean H{-2}O has skyrocketed.

A born hacker, Memo’s homemade radio surveillance activities attract the attention of the military. After tragedy strikes, in the form of remote-controlled bombers, he sets off for Tijuana. En route he meets an aspiring writer (Leonor Varela) who sells her diary entries and computer-visualized memories on the Internet. So much remarkable technology; so many dubious results.

The writer introduces Memo to the underground world of node implantation — he must decorate himself with metal thingies to plug into the global workforce grid. Memo operates a robot, via virtual-reality gizmos, high atop a skyscraper under construction in San Diego. Finally! America has solved the undocumented worker problem: work without the workers.

It’s dizzying, this premise, and Rivera doesn’t always make it easy on his audience. Conceived and filmed in the Bush era, Rivera’s film is a despairing one. It is, however, pretty effective science fiction, with one foot in its imagined world, and the other in the one we know.

Rivera creates a neon-soaked Tijuana that grabs the eye without settling for pretty pictures. One drawback: Even when Rivera sets up an elegant composition, often he undercuts it with antsy editing. Leave that manic edge to Robert Rodriguez. If a budding filmmaker can fashion a detailed, low-budget vision of the near-future, an adventurous audience can afford to spend more than a second or two with an individual shot.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some violence and sexuality).

Running time: 1:30. Opens: Friday at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, 2424 N. Clark St. Chicago.

Starring: Luis Fernando Pena (Memo Cruz); Leonor Varela (Luz Martinez); Jacob Vargas (Rudy Ramirez); Tenoch Huerta (David Cruz)

Directed by: Alex Rivera; written by Rivera and David Riker; produced by Anthony Bregman. A Maya Entertainment release.

>More Border Stories


Filmmaker to tell story of proposed border fence

August 8, 2008 – 10:13PM

Filmmaker Nat Stone has become addicted to telling the story of the border and the Rio Grande.

When Stone embarked on a kayaking trip down the entire Rio Grande in 2004, he picked up a video camera for the first time so he could recall the places he saw and people he met.

“When I launched my canoe in Colorado, I expected naively to reach the Gulf of Mexico late that summer,” he said.

Now, enamored with the historical and contemporary stories of the river, Stone’s research is indefinite.

“Going down the Rio Grande, a river that has been repeatedly trashed by corporate and government interests, I found that it was in many places devoid of water but in all places full of soul,” he said.

Now, Stone is among three other groups of filmmakers who have recently come to the Rio Grande Valley to tell the story of the proposed U.S. border fence.

Stone was brought to the debate through the river. He used his camera to make short films and put them on Youtube ( He sends clips to lawmakers and allows sound bites from congressional hearings to do their own talking.

“I’ve tried to manipulate (the clips) as little as possible,” he said. “I don’t change the order of what was said, I just boil it down as much as I can.”

In a project by another group of filmmakers, the Border Stories, like Stone’s films, has created more than 20 short films during the past six months. The shorts, which are rapidly uploaded to the Internet, can be viewed at no cost.

The group of four journalists and filmmakers was awarded a grant by the New York non-profit, Projectile Arts, to travel the entire U.S.-Mexico border and create a series of short films.

Although the group took more time with post-production than Stone, filmmaker Clara Long says that getting the episodes from camera to computer in less than two weeks was an integral part of the project.

“If we did a feature-length documentary, we’d put it together and next year it would come out,” she said, “but things are happening now.”

The only linear aspect of Border Stories is the geographic path of the border, beginning at Boca Chica Beach and ending in San Diego.

The films include stories of the Ciudad Juarez reporters, Brownsville’s No Border Wall walkers, and doctors who treat border fence-jumpers in San Diego. The series also portrays an expanse where themes relate but variation is endless.

“We want to create a feeling that you sat down and had a conversation with someone,” said Long, who believes that alternative film projects like Border Stories fill a gap left by television news. “The mainstream media is hampered because of the tradition of point-counterpoint. There’s this idea that you have to show all sides of a situation. That’s very useful for some things, but we wanted to create an opportunity for people to completely express where they’re coming from.”

The group has been nominated for an Online News Association Award in the category of Online Video Presentation.

On the other end of the profession spectrum from Stone, veteran filmmaker Wayne Ewing is completing “The Border Wall,” a more traditional full-length documentary.

The footage was shot with the intention of appearing in an episode of Bill Moyers, an investigative news show on PBS. Like Stone and the Border Stories filmmakers, Ewing said he was surprised by how much of the story had yet to be told.

“I was amazed at the complexity of the story,” he said. “What surprised me the most was the resistance of the people in the lower Rio Grande Valley.”

Ewing’s film will premiere at the Starz Denver Film Festival in November, and he hopes that it will air on PBS next year.

Ewing hopes that the five-minute preview at will put its central ideas in the public eye.

Ewing and Long agree that the fragmentation and sheer length of the border, combined with individual losses and victories in border communities, has made it more difficult to tell a cohesive story.

Despite the diversity of the filmmakers’ approaches – including the citizen journalism of the activist and author Stone – the films have combined to create a portrayal that is more complex than any method might have captured individually.

“I’m surprised that the mainstream national press hasn’t covered it more than they have,” Ewing said. “Perhaps that’s why independent filmmakers like myself and these other people have rushed in to fill that void.”

A Divided Friendship–Border Field State Park

UCSD Department of Communications video about the history of Border Field State Park, San Diego, California. scenes from June-July 2008.