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New movie about migrant's journey features Southern AZ aid volunteers

'The Long Walk of Carlos Guerrero' was recently screened in Tucson
From the film 'The Long Walk of Carlos Guerrero.'
Posted at 4:29 PM, Apr 30, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A film screened at the University of Arizona last week tackles the topic of migrants crossing the southern border.

Independent filmmaker Joseph Mathew made a documentary about immigration at the Arizona-Mexico border nearly 20 years ago called Crossing Arizona.

Now, he’s made a fictional film, The Long Walk of Carlos Guerrero, based on the reality of what migrants go through on their journeys through the Southern Arizona desert. Mathew says he wants to focus on the “human” side of the immigration issue.

“I always thought about what it must be to actually be in the shoes of one person, one person crossing the desert,” director Joseph Mathew told KGUN. “So that was the genesis of this idea.”

The Long Walk of Carlos Guerrero was also part of the Arizona International Film Festival last month at the MSA Annex.

The story focuses on an undocumented immigrant who is a successful New York City chef, who returns to Mexico to visit his ill mother and then crosses illegally to re-enter the United States. Mathew shot with a small crew in Southern Arizona in late 2020 and 2021.

Mathew even features local humanitarian aid volunteers, from Humane Borders and other groups—playing themselves in his movie—in order to highlight their work. Volunteers often spend several hours at or near the border, giving migrants water and food.

Mike Wilson worked more than a decade with Humane Borders, putting out water tanks for migrants on the Tohono O’odham Nation. He’s one of the movie’s main characters.

“I told him, ‘Joseph, I am not an actor,’” Wilson recalled. “[Mathew] said, ‘Mike, I don’t want Mike an actor. I want Mike Wilson exactly the way you are.’”

Wilson says films like this are important to change the narrative about immigration, as not just a problem.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” Wilson said. “We thrive as a nation because we are precisely an immigrant nation.”

A nation that continues to see thousands of migrants cross, and die in, the desert.

Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9 and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.