Through the Wall

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Tim Nackashi

What motivated you to make this film?

I wanted to create an on-the-ground, humanizing glimpse of the people caught up in this situation.


Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?

The biggest obstacle in this film’s process were many false-starts. – Several people  agreed to be filmed but would back out, or stop returning our calls, sometimes just a day before the shoot. Of course we understood their situation. Being in this film could potentially expose them to law-enforcement. We probably spent 5 months in that mode of planning for shoots that never happened before we stumbled upon Abril and Uriel who were going to be traveling to the wall and were willing to let our separate crews follow them.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

The issue of immigration is complicated and difficult to frame. Discussions become very emotional. The topic of immigration clearly hits on a primal level for us. I don’t feel that most of us have the tools to formulate a clear perspective. And I don’t intend to directly influence anyone’s perspective. However, while many may disagree about who should be allowed to enter and live freely in the US, I believe we can all agree that when children are caught in the crossfire, the political and economical issues hold less importance than the human implications. Hopefully this film can help frame discussions of immigration within the human condition.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

The topic of Dreamers and DACA would be enlightening points to touch on.


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

We shall see. It seems that the president will make this film very relevant again soon…


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

There is a great group called The Border Angels who support and help people in this situation. I would suggest anyone contact them if they are interested in getting further involved:


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):


Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Errol Morris, Martin Bell & Mary Ellen Mark


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

We shot with two crews simultaneously on both sides of the border wall, so that the piece would feel very real and in-the-moment when the father and mother and son met at the wall. The US team shot with a RED Dragon on a Ronin system. The Mexican team shot on several DSLRs.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

Going to the actual border wall was pretty powerful. The area on the US side felt very controlled and somewhat somber. But the people were quietly joyful. The act of communicating through the fence felt very futile — and almost pointless. But we could see that it gave people a small, slight chance to interact with their loved ones. So it felt like we were seeing the strength of will and love pushing through the fence. A pretty incredible thing to witness.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story. 

When we could, we used a Ronin to give the feeling of gliding over the actual terrain that Abril was forced to cross in order to take her son to the meeting place. Otherwise, the film revolved around intercutting simultaneous scenes of travel, hitch-hiking and walking, which is propelled by voice-over from both characters.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

Interesting question! I originally planned to create this as a “silent film.” But on the main day of shooting of course I felt compelled to do interviews. And during the edit phase, although the visuals did tell the story, it became clear that their words could draw you much more deeply into their thoughts and feelings as they traveled and met at the wall.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.

While the film may bring up issues of immigration, law, politics and economics, it has been my goal from the beginning to focus solely on the human condition and the real existential crisis that Abril, Julián, Uriel and others in this situation face. Having this film featured on The Guardian’s website, and then to receive an award at IMAGEN were moments when we felt that the film was telling the story of the human condition, and clearly connecting with people, which was so meaningful for us.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

My only advice is to go for it and make your vision. Let your voice be as unique as you are.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

My favorite part of the filmmaking process is every part. But I would have to say the best part is the actual shoot, especially when the camera is running. When the camera is running, I always feel so excited, nervous, scared and exhausted at the same time. It’s a feeling I’ve become addicted to.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

I often edit my shotlist to a piece of music that somehow feels connected to the tone of the piece. This is typically called an animatic. I’ll have that on my phone to help me envision what scenes should feel like.



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