‘The Wall’ magnifies immigration issue

By on February 17, 2010

“Imagine you’re a drug dealer,” Ricardo Martinez, director of “The Wall,” advises when discussing illegal immigration. “You make thousands of dollars every day crossing into my property. Can I just build a fence and turn my back?”

Martinez’s feature-length documentary explores that very question and the potential impact behind the construction of a 700-mile wall along the American  border between the United States and Mexico.

“The Wall” will be shown at Quinnipiac University on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall, followed by an open discussion with Martinez.

“People need to get a better understanding of what’s happening at the border,” Martinez said in a phone interview on Feb. 7. “It’s not black and white–it’s varying shades of gray.”

Martinez said when he first heard about the planned wall it seemed too “simple.”

“It didn’t seem like the appropriate response,” said Martinez, a 28-year-old New York Uuniversity graduate who majored in film. “The border is a much more complicated place than to have a solution so simple.”

The director was “pulled in” by the subject, and began working on the documentary in 2007.

Martinez’s first bit of inspiration came on  Oct. 26, 2006, when President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act. The bill called for hundreds more miles of fencing to be built along the southern border of the United States, and increased funding for the Department of Homeland Security, according to White House archives.

“By making wise use of physical barriers and deploying 21st century technology, we’re helping our Border Patrol agents do their job,” Bush said before signing the bill.

Martinez’s documentary follows the bill from proposal to execution to present day, where residents and illegal immigrants have to live with the fence.

While Martinez was admittedly jaded before beginning the documentary project, he said his first priority was to be objective and truthful.

“My one rule was, even though I have all these prejudices, to remember that I don’t know everything,” he said. “It’s about telling the truth, not an anti-wall message.”

Since its first showing on May 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, Martinez has brought the 77-minute film across the country, including a college tour starting in Texas and making its way to Princeton and, and on Feb. 22, to Quinnipiac.

“The filmmaker may deliver a subtle bias against further construction of the wall, but it is a hard case to deny,” read a Critical Mass Film House review of Martinez’s film. “As ‘The Wall’ attempts to educate the public, there is hope that this communication may find its voice.”

“Fluidity is a problem,” The Monitor, a newspaper in McAllen, Texas, reviewed.  “The film’s jerky trajectory and lack of transitions make it even more difficult to wade through the vast amount of information it presents. Questionable music choices also make for awkward viewing.”

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