As the temperature rises across southern Arizona this summer, so will the number of migrant deaths reported to the Office of the Pima County Medical Examiner.
In 2011, the Pima County OME recovered 184 deceased migrants from the Sonoran Desert. Of that number, 67 were identified and the remains were repatriated back to their families.
The crew at Line House Productions and I have had the privilege to spend the past year following OME investigators as they attempt to identify a migrant decedent, named ML11-1215, who was found in the Sonoran Desert on June 26, 2011.
In January 2012, we thought we could wrap up production and begin editing the documentary after the case had gone cold for four months. By late March, Dave Thompson, lead investigator on the case, called to say the OME would be releasing the body to the Pima County Fiduciary for burial in the indigent cemetery near Oracle Rd.
Two days later we received another phone call from Thompson.
“Austin…you’re not going to believe this but we think we’ve actually found the family for the ML11-1215 case I had called you about the other day…”
Now, we’re back in production, filming and editing simultaneously as this story continues to develop.
Today, May 3, is significant for us at Line House Productions.
One year ago, we received $2,581 from 77 backers after running a successful Kickstarter.com campaign. I wanted to add an extra 30-minutes of footage to a student-produced documentary about issues concerning the Arizona-Sonora border I‘d directed while attending the University of Arizona School of Journalism.
Following the Pima County OME was supposed to be a short segment of new footage for the student film, but after the first day with OME investigators, we knew there was a bigger story here. It wasn’t long before this segment became the focus of the documentary we’re getting ready to release.
To commemorate the agreement made with those 77 people who gave us the seed money to begin this adventure, we are releasing a 12-minute preview of our documentary, Dead in the Desert, to you, the public.
We hope you will share this preview with your friends, co-workers, classmates, family…anybody. Please help us shine a spotlight on these deaths that occur in the Sonoran Desert as summer heat rapidly approaches.
Due to graphic content, viewer discretion is advised.