SXSW 2019: The River and the Wall

The team paddles down the Rio Grande as it cuts its way between Mexico and Texas. Credit: The River and the Wall

The River and the Wall is going to be one of the most-talked about documentaries of 2019 because of its timeliness in the current political environment.

Some filmmakers inject themselves into the story for one reason or another.  In this case, Ben Masters happens to be a wildlife filmmaker.  Masters is joined by NatGeo Explorer Filipe DeAndrade, ornithologist Heather Mackey, river guide Austin Alvarado, and conservationist Jay Kleberg.  Together, they make the journey down the 1200 mile trek of the Rio Grande River in Texas.  This isn’t just any particular river.  From El Paso until the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande serves as the border between the United States and Mexico.

Listen, Donald Trump can spew out whatever he wants to with regards to his “border wall” and people will listen.  But that ain’t the reality we live in.  Are we supposed to live in a reality where we ignore those who have the best knowledge of the situation?  Should we not listen to those people who live along the border?  I want to know what Donald Trump is going to say to an American citizen who loses access to their farmland because of eminent domain in building this stupid and unnecessary wall.  I want to know how he’s going to address the fact that 1 million American acres are going to end up stranded between his stupid wall and the river.  How in the hell is going to tell these Americans that their land isn’t important?!?

It’s very hard to watch this documentary and not get angry.  I honestly don’t know how anybody can watch this bipartisan documentary and not get angry.  Yes, I said bipartisan.  This is because the documentary includes both Democratic ex-Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Republican Congressman Will Hurd.  These two may not agree on all the issues or most issues but when it comes to the border, they know a thing or two.  The border–as it just to happens–is in their back yard.

“Everywhere, it’s going to look as ugly as this or uglier,” O’Rourke says of the current physical barrier between the US and Mexico.

Because of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, some 600 miles already have a fence.  The act–signed into law by President George W. Bush–allows for the funding of a security fence for 700 miles.  This wasn’t the first time that the Border Patrol had erected a fence for security reasons.  The act had overwhelming bipartisan support.  For what it’s worth both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would vote for it when they were in the US Senate.

If there’s a film that’s going to make you angry this year, let it be The River and the Wall.  If this film doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know what will!

DIRECTOR:  Ben Masters
FEATURING:  Ben Masters, Jay Kleberg, Filipe DeAndrade, Heather Mackey, Austin Alvarado, Beto O’Rourke, Will Hurd

The River and the Wall holds its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Spotlight program. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.