For years, individuals and organizations have dropped water containers along popular routes of migration (and been arrested for “littering,” or for trespassing on federal land), have searched the desert for dying immigrants, and provided other forms of lifesaving aid, including supplying the occasional transport to emergency medical facilities (where they have been arrested for assisting another’s illegal entry into the country).
The latest tool in this humanitarian effort is clearly the most unusual; a technological tinaja: modified cell phones running encrypted, live, virtual-mapping software. Being developed as “a Mexico/U.S. Border Disturbance Art Project” by the b.a.n.g. lab, a group of researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Michigan, the shape-shifting transmissions will guide desert-crossing immigrants to water stations and the safest route through the desert while reciting inspirational poetry for aural stimulation.
Reaching well beyond politics, this full-length documentary film will go deep into the heart of an unusual and fascinating humanitarian response to
U.S.-Mexico cross-border migration: a high-risk, highly mobile and highly sophisticated network of volunteers from the north side of the border that is caching water supplies, distributing recycled cell phones running encrypted GPS trail-finding software, even sending transmissions of haiku poetry-
to keep trans-border migrants from dying in the desert. To some, it is a dramatic, selfless and inspirational effort that gives new and poignant context to the phrase “the Art of Survival.” To others, such action irresponsibly induces illegal border crossing, tantamount to aiding and abetting unlawful conduct. This project approaches this controversial topic on the premise that the line between inducing illegal activity and providing true humanitarian service is not as clearly delineated — not as easy to draw – as either side might claim.
Bryce Newell (Producer/Director/Editor) is an award winning filmmaker and media artist. He has been producing, editing, and shooting narrative and documentary projects since 2004, including documentary and narrative films, nationally broadcast television programming, music videos, and commercial videos. He has a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in law and teaches digital media courses at a university in Utah.
Coke Newell (Writer/Producer) has been a professional writer for more than 20 years, garnering extensive credits in newspapers, magazines, books and documentary film. Fluent in Spanish and a former journalist with expertise in Latin American issues, he is a college professor of communication studies.