Review: ‘The River and the Wall’ is a border crossing worth taking

The team paddling through the lower canyons of the Rio Grande in the documentary “The River and the Wall.”
(Gravitas Ventures)

Director Ben Masters’ compelling, gorgeously shot, super-timely documentary “The River and the Wall” should be required viewing of anyone charged with making a public case for or against a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

The movie, shot from late 2017 to early 2018, persuasively lays out the physical, social and ecological realities of this fervently divisive issue as it traces the 1,200-mile, 2½-month journey taken by Masters and four friends along the Rio Grande from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico.

Trekking by foot, bike, horseback and canoe, the intrepid quintet — including wildlife photographer Filipe DeAndrade, ornithologist Heather Mackey, river guide Austin Alvarado and conservationist Jay Kleberg — witnesses the unique, troubling ways in which a “sea to shining sea” wall would impact the vast region’s often harsh, diverse, sometimes virtually uncrossable or unbuildable terrain.

American farmers and ranchers, whose lands could be diminished by a contiguous barrier, along with Texas congressmen Beto O’Rourke (then repping the state’s 16th district) and Will Hurd, plus other regional observers offer dimensional views on a potential wall’s lack of logic and efficacy. (Opposing voices are absent.)


Although DeAndrade and Alvarado’s immigrant-family stories are instructive, more personal insight into our travelers plus better depiction of some of the trip’s more practical elements (sleeping, eating) would have helped. Otherwise, this is an immersive, dazzling and vital experience.


‘The River and the Wall’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Playing: Starts May 3, Laemmle Glendale; also 7:30 p.m., May 2, AMC Santa Anita 16, Arcadia; 6:45 p.m., May 6, Studio Movie Grill, Downey, Monrovia and Redlands