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Missing in Brooks County
The epicenter for migrant deaths in the United States isn't on the border–it's in Brooks County, Texas,70 miles north of the Rio Grande. Two families arrive here to search for their missing loved ones and find a haunted land and very few answers.
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Missing in Brooks County

Running Time
Feature Film
81 minutes

Missing in Brooks County

Anyone looking for a family member last heard from in Brooks County will eventually find their way to EDDIE CANALES who runs the South Texas Human Rights Center. Eddie’s phone rings constantly with calls from families of those who have gone missing while circumventing the local immigration checkpoint. One day, the brother and sister-in- law of HOMERO ROMAN arrived to see Eddie. OMAR and MICHELLE tell Eddie that from the age of five, Homero lived in Houston with his family, but after a traffic violation at age 27, he was deported. He tried to adjust to life in Mexico, a place he barely remembered, but eventually decided to return. He went missing in Brooks County. Meanwhile, the family of JUAN MACEDA shows up at EDDIE’s doorstep. Juan grew up in Guerrero, Mexico with his mother. By the time young Juan graduated high school, his future was written: either join the criminal gangs or languish in poverty. Juan decided to join his father in the United States. He paid to join a group that would be smuggled across the border into Texas. He went missing in Brooks County. EDDIE helps the families look for their loved ones by engaging with Border Patrol agent ALEX JARA and mounting an extensive search of the private ranches where many bodies are found. Together, they come upon clues to the mystery of what happened to their loved ones and confront the agonizing reality of life and death in Brooks County.

Filmmaker Notes:

MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY began as the story of a forensic scientist who is trying to identify migrants who had been buried anonymously in Brooks County, Texas. But each time we returned to South Texas, the story got bigger, as we realized the complexity and severity of the situation. We met migrants, sheriffs and activists. Ranchers, rangers and vigilantes. Consuls, judges, and undertakers. As we continued to film, it was clear that the families of the missing had to be at the center of the story, even as we continued to insist on also building a portrait of everyday life in Falfurrias. Prior to making this film, co-directors Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss held stereotypical images of people such as Border Patrol agents, law enforcement personnel, and Texas ranchers.. These have been obliterated by making this film, which attempts to convey some of the complexity of the situation we encountered.

Border Patrol is given the job of manning a massive immigration checkpoint deliberately situated in the middle of a treacherous desert, but also of saving the lives of migrants who attempt to circumvent it. Local ranchers are divided over what to do about the situation. Migrants themselves often have no idea of the true dangers of the journey they have chosen to undertake, and are at the mercy of coyotes (human smugglers) who will leave them to die if they cannot keep up over the three-to-four day trek.

To document this complexity, vérité footage is the foundation of MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY. We have been present at many moments of discovery and revelation, documenting the missing as they were reported, rescued, recovered or exhumed. We rode with Sheriff’s deputies and Border Patrol, with ranchers and vigilantes. We filmed men and women wading across the Rio Grande at night, and we filmed men and women as they surrendered to Brooks County law enforcement, dehydrated and exhausted. We filmed the emotional testimony of a border crosser, his face shielded, as he described the moment he realized the teenage boy he was carrying—one of the missing individuals portrayed in the film—was no longer alive.

As rendered through the stories of Homero Román and Juan Maceda, our vision for MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY is an immersive experience of an American town that has been caught in the middle of the daily life and death situation created by our current immigration system.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2020
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