Heightened border security in California and Texas has substantially increased the amount of border-crossing we see in Arizona, fueling the ongoing political controversy.
Crossing Arizona is a film that details the border experience, examining those people most affected by immigration issues along the border: migrants, Border Patrol agents, humanitarian-aid workers and people living and working along the Arizona-Mexico border. Though these groups all differ in opinion on border policies, they all generally agree that the current border policies are inadequate.
"If this film has any purpose at all, it's to put a human face on border policy and immigration policy," says Dan DeVivo, one of the film's producers.
In the state of Arizona, there are a lot of people who have compassion and concern for the immigrants, DeVivo says. They're concerned about the rising migrant death toll, and there's a lot of pressure being put on Arizonans to feel fear and hatred towards these immigrants.
"There's a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment right now," he says. "There's a lot that people could learn about that they don't already know, like why these migrants are so driven to make the journey across the border, to get jobs."
Arizonans are bombarded with the same media coverage on border issues as the rest of the nation, he says, and we're all victims of a fear campaign that tells us to hate migrants and tells us that they're taking our jobs.
"We (DeVivo and the rest of the film crew) don't live on the border, so we just came into it with a lot of curiosity," he says. "We didn't come into it with an agenda; we were just alarmed that so many people were dying. Our favorite part was following the stories and reaching out to all different kinds of people, getting to know them and the history."
The film, shot over two years along the Arizona border, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2006.
"Every film festival we take it to turns into this town hall-like discussion on border and immigration issues, and that's great, because it gets people thinking and talking," DeVivo says.
It was also screened at the Arizona International Film Festival in April, where it was the recipient of the Best Documentary award. It competed against 18 other finalists in the feature category.
"Being from New York, we really had to rely on the kindness of strangers while working along the Arizona border region to make this film," DeVivo says. "It was difficult at times because of the heat, but we always had water. But that really pales in comparison to what the migrants are going through."
DeVivo says the goal now is to get the film out there, into the mainstream and into educational outlets.
"You can't really understand that whole debate from any one news story or news article," he says. "This film puts it into a context where you can hopefully understand more of it."
DeVivo says he and his co-producer, Joseph Mathew, aren't working on any other projects right now, but instead are working hard to get the film into theaters and universities.
"This film has something for everybody," he says. "It's not a film that preaches to any one choir. You're going to hear from the Minutemen, from the people working in the black market to help people cross illegally, from the ranchers, the farmers, the immigrants and the human- rights groups."
If you want to be more enlightened about what's going on in Tucson's backyard, and you didn't catch the film the first time around at one of the festivals it was in, you have a few more chances, right here in Tucson.
Additional screenings of Crossing Arizona have been scheduled at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., on Saturday, July 15, at 6 and 8 p.m., and on Sunday, July 16, at 3 p.m. Admission to the show is $6. For more information, visit www.crossingaz.com.
"No matter who you are in the audience, you might not walk away with all the answers, but hopefully you'll walk away with more questions than you had before, and that's what we want," DeVivo says.