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Eyes on the Border

mgarcias Icon Posted by michelle garcia

October 13th, 2008

Thank you to Jenn Pozner for taking a look at my video report for Time.com on the Border Fence and for your generous comments. The video report was shot on the Texas-Mexico border while filming a fund-raising trailer for my documentary film. The film places the border fence in a historical context by exploring the bloody history of repression and revolution in South Texas over the last 150 years.

But in the present, one significant fact is that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has waived some 36 federal laws protecting air, water and wildlife to fast track the multi-billion dollar project. DHS has also condemned hundreds of acres of privately owned land along the border. Congress handed Chertoff unprecedented powers for a political appointee — the scope of which requires further scrutiny — to meet an end-of the year construction deadline.

The fence is needed, say supporters, to get control over the border in the interest of national security. Senators John McCain and Barack Obama voted for the border fence, as did Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Clearly one of the biggest challenges in relating this story is that the “border” is but a distant place, an idea, if you will, in the minds of most people in the U.S. But the laws of the land have a tendency to bend and falter when on the margins of this nation.

It’s on the border where the military and National Guard deployed troops and few voices mention the Posse Comitatus Act. It’s on the border that the United States is denying passports to Mexican American—CITIZENS—whose birth were attended to by midwives.

And it’s on the border that a woman, Eloisa Tamez, has emerged as the leading vocal opponent of a border security measure by weaving together an argument that evokes the U.S. Constitution and the right to preserve history and legacy. The immigration issue has been covered as largely the province of men. We see images of male immigrants, male immigration agents and mostly male pundits arguing the pros and cons of an issue that is equally a woman’s issue. It’s not just dudes rushing that border and the children that some fear threaten to dilute the nation’s character are borne by women.

Jenn mentions the images and voices contained in the piece are not often widely seen. After we — my all female team — wrapped up shooting, my Director of Photography, Carmen Vidal, told me that a mere FIVE PERCENT of top feature films are shot by women. I probably would never have understood the significance of this statistic if I had not directed a shoot—the relationship/vibe between the director and the D.P. is critical because as a filmmaker you are entrusting your vision to their eyes.

I came away from the experience wondering if more women were involved in telling the border stories, if immigration and border security were a “women’s issue” would what we see be different? I’ll find out once we go into production next year.

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