At the Border
by Tara McPherson — University of Southern California
October 25, 2007 – 03:01
Two hunky beach boys dive into the sand, propelling a volleyball over a high wall. Bright sunlight glimmers, and the sound of ocean surf and a pop beat gently drive the soundtrack. The video’s grainy and rough with a bouncy, DIY aesthetic. As the boys dive into the sand, seemingly intent on their play, a voiceover situates this happy scene along the San Diego-Tijuana border. We soon learn grim statistics about the function of this wall – its role in staking out a deadly line in the sand. As the voice-over unfolds, the piece emerges as a brilliant exposé of the militarized state of daily life. By insisting that this sun-drenched border is also a war zone, the short video reminds us that the consequences of empire don’t only unfold in the Middle East. They structure our daily lives and our play, profoundly shaping how we experience local geography, self and other, even in our denial. Here, border crossing becomes a kind of oft-fatal extreme sport, one that no one should be forced to play.
I first came across this video via Wholphin, a new venture of the McSweeney’s gang. Circulated as a quarterly DVD “magazine,” Wholphin both publishes the work of others and produces their own short projects, including this piece. It was made with Arnoldo Garcia of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), based in Oakland, California. You can watch the piece on YouTube (with Wholphin’s blessings), but also consider subscribing to the magazine to support their good work. While you’re at it, donations to NNIRR can be made via their website.