Al -Jazeera America presents their new series “Borderland” in which 6 American citizens experience the reality of immigration, following the footsteps of immigrants who have lost their lives attempting to cross the U.S – Mexico border.
The Los Angeles Theatre Center hosted a grand screening for several media outlets and the public, and served food and cocktails for those in attendance.
The series’ creators and three co-stars were also present, and at the conclusion of the screening, participated in a panel mediated by Ray Suarez. Panelists all shared their experiences working on the show, and how immigration has touched their lives.
It’s important to note that this panel featured real people and their view on a very delicate subject that affects the lives of millions yet is not given the proper attention from the government.
While discussing how this documentary came to be and everything involved, it should be mentioned that the screening itself had several setbacks in the form of technical difficulties and projection space, and the screening had to be cut short, not showing the ending.
Despite these issues, we should not take away from the documentary itself and its message. There are many other series, documentaries and films about immigration that do a magnificent job in exploring and discussing the topic. While “Borderland” is not the most well-rounded of these when it comes to technical quality, narration and profound delivery, it does present an interesting concept and its efforts are not to be dismissed.
The concept of placing 6 American citizens from different backgrounds and ideologies is like showing the public 6 different worlds that converge into one. With the exception of one Hispanic co-star, the rest are of Caucasian backgrounds. Many of them have never left American soil, much less lived the lives of immigrants whose labor they benefit from. Many express feeling of repudiation, and it remains to be seen if walking in the footsteps of these immigrants changes their view.
The documentary stars: 28 year old Alison Melder, who believes illegal immigrants steal Americans’ jobs and should all be deported; 54 year old Gary Larsen, a farmer who considers himself more or less neutral on the subject; Lis-Marie Alvrado, who is a Nicaraguan-born naturalized citizen and immigration activist; 36 year old Kishana Holland who also believes all illegals should be deported; 53 year old Randy Sufflebeam, a retired Marine and now radio host who refers to immigrants as “moochers” who don’t deserve to become citizens; and 31 year old Alex Seel, an artist and photographer who believes borders should not exist.
They travel to where many immigrants come from, explore their dangerous trek through Mexico, and the treacherous mountains and deserts these people must cross. Their journey actually starts at the Pima County Morgue, where many unknown immigrants now lay, unidentified by their families.
Shooting on location did have its poignant moments, and although some of the images are very crude and painful to watch, they are necessary to fully convey the perils of the immigrant. The most haunting moments on the show comes when the cast follows the stories of 3 immigrants who perished due to overexposure to the sun. They explore the immigrants’ origins with the help of family members, and recount their last days.
We recommend this project. While somewhat crudely filmed, it accurately portrays the perils of the border crossing these immigrants subject themselves to just so they could try and find work. It tells the story of why these people need to immigrate in the first place.
“Borderland” airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. EST/6pm PST on DirecTV ch. 347, Dish ch. 215 and Time Warner ch. 227, 445.