Border Patrol Agents Argue About Humanity Underneath "Drug Mules" and "Criminals" in Exclusive 'Transpecos' Clip
Director Greg Kwedar hopes that his film will lead to an "authentic" conversation "without bias" about immigration and the U.S. border.
An exclusive clip from the upcoming movie Transpecos shows how offensive terminology toward immigrants has become so ingrained in one hardened border-patrol agent that he can spit out terms such as "wet[back]s" and "tonks" as if "he was ordering fast food," as director and co-writer Greg Kwedar says of Agent Hobbs' (Clifton Collins Jr.) delivery.
The casual use of these words leads to an argument with his fellow border-patrol agents, who push him on his language. Although Hobbs is Hispanic, he sees his language as acceptable because he's "talking about bona fide criminals."
Hobbs continues, asking longtime agent Flores (Gabriel Luna), who's trying to keep the peace between Hobbs and rookie Davis (Johnny Simmons), "Can we call them drug mules, or is that going to offend your delicate sensibilities?"
"Of course. Yeah, sure. They're mules," Flores says. "But they're still little boys underneath."
Hobbs predicts that view will change as the scene ends, illustrating the conflicting perspectives the three agents each hold about his job.
"Somewhere between all three of their points of view is an accurate view of border patrol and people who do this job," Kwedar tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Transpecos, which premiered at SXSW to strong reviews and won the audience award, is a thriller about corruption among border-patrol agents manning a checkpoint on a remote highway. Kwedar, who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley, spent six years working on the film, four of which were spent researching border patrols and border conflict.
"I never thought I'd make a movie about border-patrol agents, but as I learned about the human conflicts and inherent drama within the job, I thought it was the perfect way to examine this world that I think people have very little understanding of but know it's important," Kwedar says.
Now, six years later, immigration is even more a part of the national dialogue, with Donald Trump in particular making the issue a cornerstone of his presidential campaign.
Immigration and issues surrounding the U.S. border is a "runaway train," Kwedar says.
"The track is ending, and it's going to drop off of a cliff. I hope our country wakes up and engages in this conversation at a human level before it explodes in our faces," he continues. "That escalation over time I think will ultimately reach a tipping point, and I just hope when it does it will be because we've now engaged as a country in the human level and recognized the human story behind this, on either side of the conflict, and that's really what my hope is for the film."
Kwedar also hopes his film offers a recognition of the human complexity to border issues.
"I think what's interesting about this film is it takes three border-patrol agents, drops them in the middle of the desert and puts them in a crisis where the beliefs that they came into that day [with] are ultimately challenged at a very human level. This parable for a much broader story about our border and immigration can be examined through narrative stories perhaps through a fictional film that gives us the closest look at what's going on on our border. Hopefully recognition of that complexity leads to a conversation that's authentic and without bias. Without an overtly political message but more of a human message, we can engage in an actual conversation without the walls that we put up between ourselves."