Ben Masters Talks About Documentary on the Texas Borderlands – SXSW Filmmaker In Focus
Ben Masters's documentary The River and the Wall world premiered at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in Documentary Spotlight, where it won the Louis Black "Lone Star" Award. Read our interview with Masters below and catch The River and the Wall in select theaters and iTunes on May 3.
In your own words, what does this film mean to you?
Ben Masters: I’ve spent years of my life working on ranches and filming wildlife and landscapes along the Texas-Mexico border. The prospect of a Border Wall is so personal to me. Selfishly, The River and The Wall was a way for me to go out and see the landscapes of the Rio Grande with my own eyes before further construction of a wall and to cherish the landscapes that I love so deeply before they’re potentially changed forever. The film means so much to me because the footage that we captured and the stories that we tell might be part of the historical documentation of the borderlands that future generations will look at the see.
What motivated you to tell this story?
BM: The threat of a border wall destroying landscapes and negatively impacting wildlife was the primary motivation behind The River and The Wall.
What do you want the audience to take away?
BM: I want people to realize that the Texas-Mexico border is so much more than a black line on the map. Along with the Rio Grande being the fourth longest river in the country, the borderlands are an incredibly beautiful, diverse, and culturally important part of the world that will be changed forever if a contiguous physical border wall is constructed. I also want people who don’t have personal relations with undocumented immigrants, similar to myself before this journey started, to recognize that behind all the media attention, fear-mongering, and stereotyping, that many undocumented immigrants are stellar individuals who are victims of circumstance.
How did you find your subject?
BM: I'm personally connected to the Rio Grande and the border. I didn't seek out the subject, the "Build The Wall" rhetoric just happened and I had to do something for the places that I loved so dearly.
What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?
BM: Texas is the greatest nation in the world therefore SXSW is the greatest film festival!
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The River and the Wall - Photo by Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images for SXSW