The River and the Wall

May 9, 2019

Beautiful doc to behold about the Rio Grande, with the wall and its  political message not far behind.

The River and the Wall

Grade: A-

Director: Ben Masters

Cast: Filipe DeAndrade, Beto O’Rourke

Runtime: 1 hr 37 min

By: John DeSando

“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.” Laura Gilpin, The Rio Grande (1949)

If your politics don’t lean a little left, not to worry. While the documentary The River and the Wall is shameless about the negatives of building a wall on the US-Mexico border, it is more a beautiful travelogue of the Rio Grande River.

As director Ben Masters and his cinematic-looking buddies meander along the river, his point is made without saying a word: Don’t despoil the land for politics. Pristine parts of that magnificent estuary are not only too remote and inaccessible for a wall, they beg to be left alone in their grandeur and difficulty.

Not only do the rugged trails or lack thereof tell of putting the wall in some places about a mile from the river, truly an absurdity that also includes ceding land to Mexico, but it also makes a case for the disruption of the many species whose lives depend on crossing the river freely. Although Masters avoids getting too close to the nasty business of illegal crossings, to say nothing of drug delivery, his low-key narration and easy-going companions speak loudly for leaving this magnificent land as peaceful as it is and finding other solutions besides an ugly edifice.

If you’re in the mood for a 1200-mile trip across the Texas border, riding bicycles and paddling canoes, with a minimum of divisive politics, enjoy rambling the Rio and figure out for yourself it should be left alone, with just a few visitors like us in our theater chairs.

“What would the world be, once bereft of wet and wildness? Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.” Gerard Manley Hopkins.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at