Luis Carlos Romero-Davis traveled all over the Southwestern United States, Mexico, Colombia and Chile to tell people his story — or, perhaps, other people’s stories.
Romero-Davis spent four and a half years making his documentary, “389 miles,” named for the length of the Arizona-Mexico border fence. A native of Nogales, Ariz., Romero-Davis grew up surrounded by people on both sides of the immigration debate and migrants coming to the U.S. from Mexico.
In his documentary, he interviews undocumented residents in the U.S., people hoping to cross the border illegally, a “coyote,” Border Patrol agents and Minuteman Project Founder Chris Simcox, as well as dozens of others on both sides of the border. He’s working to make his movie available for free on his website, 389miles.com.
The Daily Lobo interviewed Romero-Davis after a screening of his film in the SUB on Thursday.
Daily Lobo: What originally motivated you to do this?
Luis Carlos Romero-Davis: I wanted to show the world what I had seen growing up along the Mexico-Arizona border. So basically, I try to show everything, from Border Patrol, a coyote, kids, adults, activists and all that stuff. And I had three things in mind: Do it naturally, spontaneously and raw.
DL: It struck me, watching the movie, that you do a narration, but you don’t really offer your own viewpoint very much. Was that intentional?
LR: Yeah, absolutely, I think when people see my name, and they see that I’m Latino, and when they notice it’s about immigration, they’re going to make a conclusion or something like that. I don’t think I have to push it. I think if I just let people talk, and show their experience, people are smart. They’re going to be able to come up with their own ideas. So basically, I just wanted to show their own stories. Just tell the different perspectives and let people think about it, you know. I didn’t want to push it to one side or the other. And that’s been really helpful, because I’ve been able to reach a wider audience.
DL: So what did you hope to accomplish with this? What do you want people to take away from your movie?
LR: Like I said, I wanted to show people what happens along the border. We’re pretty far away from the capitol, Washington, D.C., as well as Mexico City. This is like a third world. And also, these stories, I haven’t seen them really often on television. I wanted to show the people what takes place here, so when policies and all that stuff come into place, they can see a different angle.
DL: You said that growing up along the border, you already knew a lot about this issue. But was there anything you learned making this movie that really shocked you?
LR: Yeah, I learned a lot. I knew a lot of these things happened, but it wasn’t until I grabbed the camera and submerged myself in this subworld, that I got to see, learn a lot what women go through, like, the kids. And I basically noticed and learned that it’s not black or white. It’s more complicated. It has different layers. And there’s a human aspect that we don’t see that often. And we can’t get rid of that in this equation in the immigration equation.
DL: You talk in the movie about having trouble with funding and having to sell your possessions and everything. So my question is: What kept you going during those points?
LR: I couldn’t go to film school, right? And I said, “When I go back, I’m just going to do this project.” And I want to show the world this part of the world. But also, when I started working on this project I couldn’t give up because people had given me their time to tell their stories. So I had a commitment as well. And I was really passionate about it, that I couldn’t — I never thought about stopping. Not even once. It took me longer than I thought. I thought it was going to take me eight months, and it took me four years and a half. It took me longer than I expected, but I never thought about not doing it. That never crossed my mind.
DL: What changes would you like to see in U.S. border policy?
LR: I wish they would consider there’s a human aspect to it. I think we’ve got to be really honest, and think about real solutions that work, that benefit both of the countries. Like, they could say “supply and demand,” you know. We need all these number of people. Let’s bring them. I think there’s got to be a better way that would benefit both countries.
DL: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
LR: Maybe the last thing I want to say — because, I’ve been able to show this documentary at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and three times here at the University, and I’m going to go to the high school. So I just want to say that I’m pretty happy with New Mexico and the way the film was received.