Tuesday, September 14, 2010

HBO's THE FENCE (LA BARDA) studies impact of U.S.-Mexico border wall

THE FENCE (LA BARDA), Rory Kennedy's latest HBO documentary, investigates the impact of the U.S. government's decision in October 2006 to build a 700-mile fence along its troubled border with Mexico. It debuts Thursday, September 16 (8:00-8:45 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO.

After three years of construction, 19 construction companies, 350 engineers, thousands of construction workers, tens of thousands of tons of metal and $3 billion later, the question remains: Was it all worth it?

The film reveals how the border wall's stated goals - containing illegal immigration, cracking down on drug trafficking and protecting America from terrorists - have given way to unforeseen, even absurd consequences.

When Arizona recently enacted one of the most extreme immigration laws in the country, the Obama administration responded by filing a lawsuit against the state.  This dispute was merely the latest symptom of a greater national problem:  the lack of a comprehensive, workable U.S. immigration policy.  In its place, lawmakers have resorted to a series of half-measures, the most expensive of which - the U.S.-Mexico border fence - extends through the desert 150 miles south of the Arizona state capital.

In THE FENCE (LA BARDA), Rory Kennedy  of HBO's Emmy®-winning "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" follows her subjects through private ranches, protected wilderness, bustling border towns and scrub deserts for a revealing, often surprising look at the controversial southern U.S. border barrier.  Featuring candid interviews with Border Patrol guards, ranchers, environmentalists and voices from both sides of the immigration controversy, the film also uses humor to highlight the contradictions and misinformation that have dogged the fence from its inception, underscoring the sometimes stark contrast between fact and political opinion.

As many as 500,000 undocumented immigrants are estimated to cross into the U.S. every year.  In the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration responded to the enormous political pressure to close what was seen as a dangerous open door with a seemingly simple, some say simplistic, solution:  a fence dividing the United States from its neighbor to the south.
Approved by Congress under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and passed by 73% of Congress, with support from both Republicans and Democrats, the fence was constructed at a cost of more than $3 billion, a figure that continually grows due to maintenance and repairs.

One of the most confounding and little-known realities of the fence is that it covers only about one-third of the 2,000-mile border.  A patchwork of materials ranging from corrugated steel and concrete to chain-link fence and railroad ties, it stops abruptly in places, leaving long stretches of open space that the government has no plans to seal off.  As one of Kennedy's subjects notes, sometimes the easiest way to get past the fence is to "go a mile down this road [where] there is no fence" and simply walk around it.

Kennedy's host of witnesses, including eminent historian Douglas Brinkley, create an unprecedented oral history of the fence.  Her camera captures the frustrations of Border Patrol guards who risk their lives to thwart fence breaches only to face bolder attempt the next day.  She also interviews both the "coyotes" (human smugglers) illegally ferry people across borders and the people who have survived the potentially deadly crossing.

Set your VCR [or make friends with someone who gets HBO!]~

Other HBO playdates:  Sept. 18 (5:30 p.m.), 22 (9:30 a.m., midnight) and 28 (2:15 p.m.), and Oct. 3 (3:45 p.m.), 7 (4:15 p.m.) and 11 (6:15 a.m.)
HBO2 playdates:  Sept. 20 (10:45 a.m., 3:20 a.m.) and 30 (7:15 p.m.)


Anonymous said...


RORY K.. YOU ARE SPREADING LIES. She says that NO terrorist are coming from mexico!!! WHAT ARE DRUG CARTELS, they are terrorist... LOOK UP THE DEFINITION, not only do they traffic drugs... they kill, bribe, or hold hostage to anyone who gets in their way. In fact look up "Mexican Cartel plot to blow up texas dam" or "Cartel kill Arizona police"... THEY ARE TERRORIST COMING ILLEGALLY FROM MEXICO. Just because they did not successfully blow up a building does not mean they are not a terrorist group. They still commit terrorist acts making them terrorist.

Border Explorer said...

I don't like anonymous comments. I was allowing them while a tech issue got resolved, then forgot to reset my usual 'must be registered' policy. It is now reset.

To this anonymous poster I say:
1) Rory K. is not likely to read this blog. Don't spam the rest of us.
2) Lots of things/people terrify me. Doesn't make them "terrorists." Sounds like you're very fearful of drug cartels (understandable; I am too!) and that the border wall makes you feel more secure.

A final, extraneous observation:
1) Conservatives like to type in capital letters.

Mary E Mendoza said...

This looks pretty interesting. I do work on this very topic and I am looking forward to watching this documentary. The problem? I don't have HBO. Could you tell me how much Rory K gets into the history of border fences? Are there any international comparisons made or is this a more contemporary piece that focuses only on the 2006 fence? How much talk is there about the environmental impacts?

Border Explorer said...

Here is what a couple professional reviewers had to say about it, Mary:




Kennedy's documentary is helpful, but short, so it can't encompass every aspect of the border wall. The environmental aspect is the focus of the Sierra Club documentary Wild vs Wall,which can be viewed online here:

There is also info. on the No Border Wall website. Warning, there is an anti-wall bias (big surprise), but all of the information about how destructive the border wall is is, in fact, accurate.

Regarding Anonymous All-caps: In fact look up "Mexican Cartel plot to blow up texas dam"
The cartel plot to blow up a Texas dam was a hoax. Apparently someone put flyers on cars in a parking lot, and FOX "news" took the bogus story and ran with it. No dams were harmed in the perpetuation of the hoax.