Poster for The River and the Wall. Photo courtesy of Google Images.
By Helena Kilbern
Sewanee, Tennessee may seem like a long way away from the United States/Mexico border, but the recent Student Union Theater (SUT) screening of The River and the Wall, a documentary about the border, made it clear that the proposed plans for a border wall are an issue that people in all parts of the country should pay attention to and care about.
Emily Stone (C’20), was the student who brought this important documentary to Sewanee’s campus. She is originally from Texas and, as she said, she “wanted to show the movie so that people who weren’t familiar with the social, political, and natural environments along our southern border could see it for themselves and form their own opinions on issues regarding border control.”
This documentary portrays the story of five friends who embark on a trip together along the Texas Border from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico for a total of 1200 miles. They travel in many forms including on foot, mountain bikes, horseback, and canoes. This trip illustrates many themes including but not limited to animal migration, natural borders, and border culture. The film premiered at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas and is touring this spring.
Stone reached out to Ben Masters, one of the makers of the documentary, via instagram. He was enthusiastic about the idea of it being viewed in Sewanee, and helped Stone confirm that a screening would be possible. Stone then reached out to Professor Donna Murdock of the IGS department who encouraged Stone to move forward with the idea.
After reaching out to a variety of organizations to sponsor the event, she got help from John Benson and Seth Burns from the Sewanee Outing Program to help with the final steps. The SOP does a Rio Grande canoe trip, led by Benson, annually during Spring Break, so they were especially enthusiastic about this idea.
On April 16 at 7:30 p.m. the Sewanee Outing Program, the Sportsman’s House, the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems, the International and Global Studies Department, the Greenhouse, the Spanish Department, and the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability sponsored this documentary free of charge to students. The turn out was impressive, filling most of the SUT.
According to Emily Culp (C’19), “The film helped the watcher to truly understand all of the implications that a border wall would have on the lands surrounding the Rio Grande. It’s a lot more than just a wall…it’s a loss of property for people who love their land, it’s the disruption of wildlife refuges, and it’s an utter disregard of the natural barriers that already stand in place in the region.”
Ultimately, Stone thinks the message of this movie is important because “it weaves together the social, political, and natural environments that exist along the Rio Grande, and sheds light on some stories and places which aren’t talked about in the national debate on border control. I enjoy that the movie features congressmen from both political parties, because it shows that the solution to border control doesn’t lie in the hands of just one party, and that members of both parties know there are more effective ways of border control than just building a massive border wall.”