by Martha Pskowski
Director Greg Rainoff had a successful twenty year career as a Hollywood visual effects artist before deciding, “I needed to do something good with myself.” That “something” arrived when he found himself inspired to make a film after reading about the US border wall project.
Dismayed that environmental impacts weren’t being discussed, he decided he had to act.
“I started a film about birds and it became about human rights.” El Muro, Rainoff’s film, tells the story of the 3.5 miles of border wall dividing San Diego, CA, from Tijuana, Mexico.
Prior to this section of the wall was constructed, it’s important to recognize, Congress passed the Real ID Act of 2005. One little-known section of this law gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive any local, state, or federal laws that impede the construction of the border wall.
This Act, passed without criticism from the environmental movement at-large, has served as a catalyst for wholesale ecological destruction along the border.
Subsequently, while embarking on the project, Rainoff realized that “Globalization and climate change are happening at the same time. You can’t just tell a story about the environment anymore.” This understanding led Rainoff to create a film that’s truly investigative in nature, especially as he peers beyond appearances in search of the root causes of the problems he’s highlighting.
And what he found while making the film is that the environment in general is being sacrificed wildly, all in the supreme quest for a secure border. Beyond the physical construction, what Rainoff has observed while living in San Diego is the manifestation of a “culture of impunity,” one in which the “[DHS] cloaks everything in national security.”
Simply by questioning said security culture, Rainoff uncovered a story of environmental and social destruction.
The focused on stretch of wall has come under increasing scrutiny since former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff was granted the waiver necessary to bypass environmental laws in favor of expedited construction.
Sierra Club has cited the following incidents of devastation:
“cut away two hilltops, backfill a canyon, and build a three-tiered wall, roads, and stadium-size security lights. The canyon, Smuggler’s Gulch, drains directly into the Tijuana Estuary, which is one of the last salt marshes in southern California and internationally recognized for the breeding and nesting ground it provides to over 350 bird species. Erosion from construction and backfill in the canyon threatens the health of the estuary ecosystem.”
Rainoff’s film eloquently tells the tale of the western-most edge of the border wall where such ecological, economic, social, and political forces are colliding into what is a microcosm of narrow strain of public sentiment: security at any and all costs.
El Muro is currently being shown at festivals nationwide. Please contact Greg Rainoff if you are interested in screening the film in your community.