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REVIEW

Director fails to take control of `Border War'

September 01, 2006|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

The latest documentary from the self-described "conservative grass-roots advocacy organization" Citizens United, "Border War," is written and directed by Kevin Knoblock, who previously made "Celsius 41.11," a rebuttal of sorts to "Fahrenheit 9/11," in 2004 and "Broken Promises: The United Nations at 60" in 2005.

"Border War" deals with the hot-button issue of immigration reform and border security. The film focuses on five main subjects: a border patrol agent, the widow of a sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty by an illegal immigrant, a Latina who has become an advocate against illegal immigration and supporter of the Minuteman Project, an activist for immigrant rights and an Arizona congressman who has made immigration his key issue. But the five are never tied together in any meaningful way, making "Border War" more of a shell game than a forceful piece of agitprop.

Taken within the context of Knoblock's other Citizens United films, "Border War" does provide, perhaps inadvertently, an insight into just how delicate and topsy-turvy the current cultural and political moment can be. Whereas "Celsius 41.11" ended with a loving montage of George W. Bush photo-ops and swooning commentary on his vision and policies, the president's presence in "Border War" is distinctly different.

At one point the congressman, Rep. J.D. Hayworth, is shown talking on the phone to his father, explaining how he had met with the president on Air Force One. Hayworth, a Republican, then rips into Bush, deriding his proposed immigration policies as being too lenient. Later, Lupe Moreno, the supporter of immigration reform legislation, expresses her disappointment in Bush and her anger at his comments on the Minutemen.

As in his previous films, Knoblock uses his basic premise as more of a springboard than a foundation, zipping from one tangent to another without synthesizing a fundamental argument or building a singular premise. Placing these stories side by side has no additive power, as Knoblock's clumsy juxtapositions and tenuous connections never gain momentum and the different strands seem to be constantly jockeying for the viewer's attention.

As rhetoric, "Border War" is scattershot and anecdotal, featuring an awful lot of talking but surprisingly little for a viewer to latch onto besides a transmitted sense of general anxiety and outrage, and an insistence that an unspecified "something" must be done to solve this "problem."

*

"Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration"

MPAA rating: Unrated

A Citizens United/Peace River Co. production. Writer-director Kevin Knoblock. Producers Knoblock, David N. Bossie. Director of photography-editor Matthew Taylor.

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Exclusively through Wednesday at the AMC Town Center 8, Burbank. Inside mall, third floor. (310) 289-4262 #7.

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