Cries From the Border

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Cries From the Border

Post by Corlyss_D » Thu May 25, 2006 7:14 pm

Cries From the Border
A provocative film alienates both sides of the immigration debate.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 12:01 a.m.

HEREFORD, Ariz.--Last July 6, Mercedes Maharis awoke at 11 p.m. to the roar of a Border Patrol helicopter hovering outside her living room here, two miles north of the Mexican border. It was pitch black outside. The chopper blades pounded so hard that her windows shook as if under artillery bombardment. She opened the door and heard people screaming and running as the chopper herded them off the hill toward three Border Patrol trucks below.

In her nightgown, shaking with fear, Ms. Maharis grabbed her camera and filmed the scene. "I had to film it because nobody would believe it," says Ms. Maharis, 63, a self-described Indiana farm girl. But she also acted out of instinct. Ms. Maharis is a filmmaker, and she incorporated images from that night into a documentary called "Cochise County USA, Cries From the Border," an account of how the ongoing invasion from Mexico has impacted life in one border county.

Ms. Maharis wanted residents to speak for themselves in describing home break-ins, vandalism, horrible traffic accidents and more. One scene shows flowers at a roadside in nearby Sierra Vista, a memorial to five people killed in an October 2004 wreck. Two smugglers fleeing the cops at 90 miles an hour with 19 illegals in their pickup sailed over a median and rammed cars at a stoplight. Three illegals died. So did 75-year-old James Lee and his newlywed bride, Emilia Guthrie Lee, 71, of Huachuca City. Every time she passes that spot, Ms. Maharis says, her heart breaks for that elderly couple, trying to start their lives together.

"Cries" also shows vehicles torched by an illegal alien arsonist who rampaged through the county in 2005. The man, judged mentally incompetent, was sent to the Arizona State Hospital, where his care costs taxpayers almost $200,000 annually.

Meanwhile, Ms. Maharis interviews Cynthia Kolb, who pulled her granddaughter from a meth-house and is struggling to raise her. The girl badly needs medicine and various therapies that Arizona refuses to provide, partly because it has no money.

But the film is no blind screed. It shows everyone's pain, including pictures of illegals lying dead in the desert. They resemble battlefield images--think of Matthew Brady's Civil War photography.

Ms. Maharis had no idea of the extent of the chaos when she moved here from Las Vegas in 2004. A schoolteacher turned filmmaker with three master's degrees, including one in Latin American studies, Mercedes and husband Robert bought a beautiful home atop a precarious road that winds into the Huachuca Mountains. The view encompasses 30 miles of desert under the earth's bluest sky. They thought they'd found Eden.

They didn't realize that a smuggling trail crosses the property, 100 feet from their door, or that the house is sandwiched between two roads used by human- and drug-traffickers. "When I realized we'd settled in a war zone, I was traumatized, unable to sleep for months," Ms. Maharis says. The film became part therapy, part warning call to the nation.

But "Cries," released last summer, has taken Ms. Maharis on an unexpectedly wild ride into the immigration buzz saw. A screening at a library in Bisbee--a mining town turned aging-hippie-hangout--ended in mayhem, with audience members yelling at each other as the credits rolled.

She sent the film to the anti-illegal-immigration Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, hoping he'd arrange a screening before the National Press Club. Even though Mr. Tancredo's staff said the documentary should be seen, the congressman wouldn't personally recommend it because it included the views of an "ACLU propagandist," charges of serious Border Patrol abuses, and endorsement of a guest worker program.

"It's pushing everybody's buttons," says Ms. Maharis.

But at least Mr. Tancredo's staff watched the whole thing. Gerald Kicanas, the bishop of the Tucson Catholic Diocese, showed Ms. Maharis no such courtesy. About 15 minutes into a private screening of the 70-minute film, he summarily stood and left the room, declaring that "Cries" wasn't empathetic to the illegals. Ms. Maharis found herself talking to the open door. "But we are compassionate!" she called, pleading with him to watch the whole film. Bishop Kicanas refused.

"I was shocked he'd dismiss us like that," Ms. Maharis says. "It demonstrated a closed mind. I thought high church officials were supposed to be compassionate toward everyone, but he showed no interest in what's happening in Cochise County to people like us, living in trauma on private property."

In the salons of Cambridge and San Francisco, Ms. Maharis has encountered indifference to her account of border chaos. Screenings there have attracted mere handfuls of people. Her New York show drew exactly one viewer, actor George Maharis, her brother-in-law.

As she prepared to submit "Cries" for an Academy Award nomination, a viewer told her it was too political. Translation: the wrong politics for Hollywood. Especially to the open-borders lobby, the film is deeply subversive. Ms. Maharis knows that playing the politically correct game would've won bigger audiences and media acclaim, and it would've played nicely into the PR machine of street protesters demanding "rights" for illegals.

But she was committed to telling the whole truth. "This isn't a political film," she says. "I'm on the side of suffering people everywhere."

For the Maharises, promotional trips are difficult because they cannot leave their home untended, fearing it'll be ransacked. Illegals have turned their mountainside palace into a prison. That's Ms. Maharis's personal trauma. "This is my home, and I don't want to be driven from my home," she says. "We came here to live our retirement in peace, and if we can't we'll have to leave." But the nation's trauma worries her more, and she's hard-pressed to understand how George Bush's immigration plan will do anything to help American citizens on the border.

"This is uncivilized, and something has to change dramatically," Ms. Maharis says. "This is like a pot on the stove that's going to boil over, and pretty soon. I had to use my skills to make a difference or my conscience wouldn't let me rest."

Mr. Banks is a writer in Tucson.

Anyone here seen this? Reb? DavidRoss?
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Post by jack stowaway » Fri May 26, 2006 5:48 am

The alarming reality is that Western nations have largely lost control of their borders.

The situation in the UK has reached farcical proportions. A director from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate recently caused uproar when he admitted he had not 'the faintest idea' how many illegals were in the country. This admission closely followed the revelation that over 1,000 foreign criminals awaiting deportation had mistakenly been released back into British society. No one has the 'faintest idea' of their whereabouts, either.

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Post by DavidRoss » Fri May 26, 2006 10:54 am

No, Corlyss, I haven't even heard of it before, but it sounds interesting and possibly very informative for those with no personal experience but only ideological prejudices conditioning their views. I checked Amazon and it is available on DVD.

Many years ago I lived in the country in San Diego county. There was a shed out back which served as a way-station on the "coyote" trail passing through the property. We never had trouble back then. Of course, things were different in those days. The numbers weren't nearly as great, and the whole thing seemed more like a big game. I knew illegals who would occasionally get swept up in a raid and deported. It rarely took more than a few days before they were back on the job. (Of course, illegal immigrants in Mexico aren't just deported, they're sentences to a couple of years in prison. Ever been in a Mexican prison?)

I'm not Hispanic, but I am a Southwesterner, a New Texafornizonian, part of an American subculture that owes as much to Spain and Mexico as to England, if not more. Half my friends are Hispanic, some immigrants and some native born. I know there are no easy solutions to the problems; the time when there might have been is long past.

I also know that rational, dispassionate discussion of this issue is as rare as with any other controversial topic which provokes strong emotions. I don't even have a "side" on the issue, but know that when I make a statement that those who have taken sides see as sympathetic to the other side, it's less likely that the view expressed will be examined for its merit than that my character will be attacked for expressing it. Demonizing those who raise issues inconvenient to your own point of view is a time-tested method insuring ignorance rather than understanding, conflict rather than cooperation, and polarization rather than consensus.

One or two posters frequenting this board have yet to learn that basic lesson. I hope I have.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri May 26, 2006 11:04 am

DavidRoss wrote: New Texafornizonian.
Is that someone who advocates official zones of fornication in Texas? If so, were you influenced by The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? And what was an "old" Texafornizonian?

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 26, 2006 1:36 pm

Interesting post, as always, David.
DavidRoss wrote:I know there are no easy solutions to the problems; the time when there might have been is long past.
That's all we know and all we need to know. That fact alone will make it difficult if not impossible for the politicians to resolve it. Doing nothing is also decision.
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