Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rory Kennedy and The Fence (HBO documentary airing Sept. 16)

Rory Kennedy's upcoming HBO documentary “The Fence” (“La Barba”) presents a compelling argument that the border fence, the subject of the film, is an ill-conceived and expensive mistake.

The documentary itself crosses that difficult border from education into entertainment. The audience at the preview screening in Los Angeles was laughing heartily many times throughout the film.

The facts about the fence are so absurdly funny by themselves that Kennedy and crew can afford to underplay them, with delicious results.

The first time we are shown the fence, we see a sturdy structure stretching across a desert region. While not insurmountable, it does look like it could at least serve as a deterrent -- until the fence abruptly ends.

Roughly 700 miles of fence have been erected along a border region that stretches some 2,000 miles. The fence simply stops and starts in various places. Anyone wishing to cross the border need only follow the fence until they come to a gap.

What this three-year, $3 billion dollar project has done is to force people, seeking to cross the border, to go through more hazardous conditions along the way. It’s also not clear that spending more money to close the gaps in the fence would have the desired effect.

The film presents the strong determination of people who wish to cross the border. As one foreigner noted, “Human beings have more ideas than any device.”

Anyone who buys into any of those ridiculous stereotypes that Mexicans are ignorant, lazy, or “illiterate in any language” (as one Fox News guest says in a captured clip) should consider the ingenuity of the methods the “coyotes” -- smugglers of humans -- have come up with to get people across the border.

One coyote explained how they dug holes under the fence in the morning, guarded them carefully during the day, and then sent people under the fence at night. Yet another man showed how he cut open parts of a car to hide passengers under seats and even in the foot well of the passenger side of the front seat.

Another technique was to bring trucks bearing ramps (like the ones used to ferry new cars across the country) right up to the fence so a car could literally drive from the ramp down over the border fence.

The coyotes charge thousands of dollars to people wishing to cross the border. Would you pay $5,000 to come to America to pick crops in subhuman conditions at less than minimum wage? How horrible must one’s life be for them to want to pay that price for such work?

Wouldn’t that $3 billion have been better spent on improving the living and working conditions of our southern neighbors to reduce their incentive to come to America in the first place?

One of the more hilarious moments was shot at a golf course that sits south of the border wall but north of the actual border. The border is denoted by the Rio Grande River, which bends and curves. Instead of building the fence along the river, a decision was made to just build the fence straight across in some spots, creating a strange region that is still part of the United States, but south of the fence.

One such region involves a golf course. How bizarre that you need to bring your passport to return from a golf course that is already in America. The absurdities abound.

The film has a point of view, but it is not a completely one-sided presentation. The filmmakers spent a good deal of time following a group of Minutemen who were busy patrolling the border on their own volition, loaded with weapons and a strong belief in the righteousness of their cause.

The filmmakers gave them plenty of screen time to explain the reasoning that led to the creation of the fence in the first place. To them, this isn’t about Mexican immigrants coming across the border to work American farms. This is about potential terrorists entering America to create another 9/11.

Rory, who narrated the film, counters this point with a map sprouting X’s to show where certified terrorists have entered the country, Rory reads off the names of the cities -- New York, New York, New York, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, New York, New York, New York -- and notes, with the kind of dry wit her father Robert Kennedy was famous for, that a pattern seems to be emerging.

One of the film’s most poignant moments was the display of a map showing where immigrants died. While scattered across the border region, there were noticeable areas of concentration.

How horrible must one’s life be that they are willing to die to cross into another country? Can any fence hold back those who feel that level of desperation?

The film also touches on the environmental cost of the fence. As Rory noted in a Q&A after the screening, this is some of the most pristine land in America.
The fence prevents the migration of scores of creatures, including deer, mountain lions, and bears, among others. One shot shows some deer nosing up to the fence, presumably wondering how they could get to their usual stomping grounds.

As one man noted in the film, imagine someone coming into your home and walling you off from your kitchen, or your bedroom. That’s what we’ve done to a number of species.

Several times, the film references President Ronald Reagan’s famous “Tear down this wall” moment. This is not who we are, as Americans, several voices in the film say. We don’t build walls. We’re a nation of immigrants.

So how did this travesty come about?

Read the rest of my review at


Blogger imrnlil said...

We are a nation of LEGAL immigrants. Not everyone made it through Ellis Island! We sent plenty back! This is more liberal rhetoric from a Kennedy, so who's surprised? A nation of illegal aliens is a nation of fools. Fill the gaps in with turrets and patrol that with National Guard.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Okay - let's say we agree (and I don't, but for the sake of argument).

There's no way you can build a wall that people can't get over/around/under. And even trying costs literally BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. What is "conservative" about SPENDING BILLIONS on something that doesn't work? How are you going to raise the funds. Don't say cut spending because Repubs didn't do that and wouldn't again if they were in office. So how would you RAISE that money?

3:34 PM  
Blogger stevefnp1 said...

I think these poor poor illegals should do jail time for their breaking the federal law. They don't just work cheap. They don't pay income tax nor social security and they get free health care not to mention welfare that takes care of the whole family when they have an 'anchor baby' - a knock up on U.S. soil. When the fence doesn't work and they go through the gap no one is pushing them except maybe another illegal and if they go through the worst areas then let them assume the consequences. They also are not screened for serious health issues like tuberculosis, chaga's, dengue fever risk and so on. These are diseases that your kids may get when they meet the illegal children at school. The kids are also often lacking childhood immunizations. Don't forget the criminal elements that come over and sell your kids drugs and they don't worry about jail time. They're sent back to Mexico but return in a few days. Its time the bleeding heart film makers and politicians who are getting rich and getting votes from the illegals take a stand for the citizens paying their way who are facing perhaps the worst time in our country in a long time with all the outsourcing and the security threats as well. If the fence is not working it doesn't follow that the U.S. should just give up and let everyone in. Find a better way or augment the fence with added surveillance. Send the illegals and the coyotes to jail along with the drug dealers. Don't pay welfare for 'anchor' babies. Destroy the incentive to break the law and the law won't be broken but it takes the government doing what it is supposed to do. steve jaubert

10:20 PM  
Blogger Schteveo said...

"There's no way you can build a wall that people can't get over/around/under."

I'm guessing you never heard of the Iron Curtain?! It wasn't really a curtain, it was a bunch of fences.

And while it didn't keep everyone IN, it kept hundreds of thousands from crossing(OUT). And if a fence won't work HERE, why is Mexico building one at their southern border!??

2:01 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Because someone always makes money off of building a fence or wall, whether it works or not.

And the Iron Curtain didn't last, did it?

2:12 PM  
Blogger Carmenisacat said...

Walls usually signal the end of an empire you know so be careful what you wish for.

I live down here and the wall isn't very good....scrap metal for the most part and tearing it down...well sheesh. A couple of people with chain saws could probably relieve us of several hundred feet per day.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

stevefnp - I completely disagree that we should punish illegals. That's like punishing crack users instead of crack dealers. Punish the employers who create the market for illegals, not the desperate people working in toxic mud to pick our food in the hopes of eeking out a living.

It would be more cost-effective to raise the standard wages in Mexico so there'd be less incentive for illegals to come here.

And btw - be prepared to see food prices triple if illegals stop farming for us. Can you afford that? If not, think carefully about what you propose.

11:21 AM  

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