The Otay Mesa Detention Center

Joel Tauber bears witness to the Otay Mesa Detention Center everyday, as part of Border-Ball: A 40-Day Pilgrimage Along The U.S. - Mexico border.

The Otay Mesa Detention Center troubles me. I walk there everyday from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry as part of my 40-day pilgrimage. Guards slowly circle the Detention Center in vans. They stare at me. I meet their gaze. They tell me that I have to remain on the sidewalk. The large private prison company that owns and operates the Detention Center, CoreCivic, maintains the dirt pathway that surrounds it. I cannot film, or even stand, on this pathway—or on the very large parking lot where the multitude of Detention Center employees park their cars.

I stand on the sidewalk and bear witness. I toss a ball, repetitively and meditatively, contemplating the expanse of concrete “pods” holding the detainees. Three layers of barbed wire and electric fencing separate me from the people locked inside. I cannot see them. I cannot talk with them or play catch with them. I cannot offer food or other forms of direct aid.

I try to imagine what it must be like for the detainees—especially those who are forced to remain in the Detention Center for years on end. Refugees. Dreamers. Most have no criminal records whatsoever. Treated like prisoners. In jumpsuits. Living in concrete cages. Breathing in terrible air from the power plant across the street. Suffering, according to multiple reports, from physical and sexual abuse. Medical neglect. Contaminated and insufficient food. Forced labor.

I toss the ball and I think about how my paternal grandparents survived the Holocaust. How my grandfather’s brother died in a labor camp. How I am a descendant of immigrants who came to this country because they believed, like I do, that it is a welcoming place that values people from all ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs. A compassionate country that finds homes for refugees, that cares for those that need help.

I’m still shocked by the march in Charlottesville, so close to where I live with my wife and two young boys. Klansmen without hoods, shouting openly about killing Jews and African Americans. I’m frightened by the rise of racist rhetoric and the rise of hate crimes. And I’m terrified by white nationalism.

But, I have hope nonetheless. I continue to believe in our country. I’m confident that we will rediscover our values. So, I toss a ball and declare:

Walk with me along the border. Play catch with me in front of the wall. Share some hot dogs and salsa. I don’t care what part of the world you’re from. Let’s root, root, root for teamwork. If we don’t find some, it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, we’re out at the old ball game.

On Thanksgiving, a guard stops his van and tells me that he sees me everyday. We discuss the Detention Center, the Border, the Wall. The value of compassion. A friend who has walked with me that day adds his thoughts. Then the guard asks: “we need this place, right?” I thank him for asking such an important question. He thanks me. Then the guard resumes circling the Detention Center in his van. And I start walking back to the Port of Entry with my friend, as the conversation circles over and over again in my mind.

The Border Wall

Border-Ball is a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. - Mexico border, a movie, and an art installation by Joel Tauber. Tauber begins each day at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California before walking along the wall and then heading to the Otay Mesa Detention Center.

I’m continually confronted by the Border Wall. I walk alongside it everyday, while making my 40-Day Pilgrimage from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry to the Otay Mesa Detention Center, and then back again.

The Wall seems most imposing to me from the easternmost point of my 7 mile route before I head north towards the Detention Center. The towering metal barricade marches seemingly forever east, past the horizon line. I stare at The Wall, but I cannot touch it. I face it behind a second shorter metal fence and a restricted buffer zone of highly patrolled land.

I stand at this spot, tossing a ball and thinking about The Wall. I interview people about the border and about baseball, and I toss a ball with them. I talk to Border Patrol agents nearby. Then, I toss a ball to myself some more.

And I wonder. What does The Wall do to us? Psychologically? Ethically? Spiritually? What happens when we emphasize, so clearly, the boundaries between us? When we heighten them with steel, rebar, and concrete? Does The Wall make it harder to recognize that we’re all connected to each other? That we’re all on the same team?

I continue to toss a ball, over and over again. As a ritual. As a meditation. As a prayer. I think about our teammates who are suffering. The hungry. The homeless. The refugees who we turn away. And all those we lock up in detention centers. 

Then, I declare:

Walk with me along the border. Play catch with me in front of the wall. Share some hot dogs and salsa. I don’t care what part of the world you’re from. Let’s root, root, root for teamwork. If we don’t find some, it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, we’re out at the old ball game.

The Sharing Project awarded “Best International Documentary Film” at the Vintage International Film Festival

The Sharing Project awarded "Best International Documentary Film" at the Vintage International Film Festival.

Many thanks to Ninad Kulkarni and to Anmol Kothadiya, the jurors at the Vintage International Film Festival, for awarding The Sharing Project movie “Best International Documentary Film!” And many thanks to everyone else at the Vintage International Film Festival for including the film in the event!

The Sharing Project screening at YoFiFest, The Yonkers Film Festival

The Sharing Project movie is screening at YoFiFest, The Yonkers Film Festival⁩ on Friday November 8 at 3:30 ⁦⁦⁦⁦⁦⁦pm. The screening is happening at the Atrium Theater at the Yonkers Riverfront Library.

I’m thrilled that The Sharing Project movie is screening at YoFiFest, The Yonkers Film Festival⁩ on Friday November 8 at 3:30 ⁦⁦⁦⁦⁦⁦pm. The screening is happening at the Atrium Theater at the Yonkers Riverfront Library. It will be the US East Coast premiere for the film!
Tickets and more info: https://yofifest2019.eventive.org/films/5d8405274e71a10033128de0

The Sharing Project screening at the Vintage International Film Festival

Joel Tauber's film, The Sharing Project, is screening at the Vintage International Film Festival in Kolhapur, India on October 5 – 6 (venue: Shahu Smarak Bhavan, Dasara Chouk, Kolhapur).

Many thanks to the Vintage International Film Festival for selecting The Sharing Project movie. I wish I could be in Kolhapur, India for The Sharing Project screening and for the rest of the Vintage International Film Festival events. The Sharing Project will screen on Sunday October 6 at around midday (it’s the third screening in the block of films that begins at 11:30 am) at Shahu Smarak Bhavan, Dasara Chouk, Kolhapur.

The Sharing Project screening at the DTLA Film Festival on October 25

The Sharing Project movie — Joel Tauber's 29 minute non-fiction film, philosophical journey, personal narrative, and nature film, all intertwined together to explore the meaning of sharing — is screening at the DTLA Film Festival on Friday October 25 at 6 pm.

I’m really excited that The Sharing Project movie — my 29 minute non-fiction film, philosophical journey, personal narrative, and nature film, all intertwined together to explore the meaning of sharing — is screening at the DTLA Film Festival on Friday October 25 at 6 pm. Looking forward to returning to Los Angeles for the USA premiere of the film!

The film is screening at Regal LA Live: Theater 12 (A Barco Innovation Center. 1000 West Olympic Boulevard. Los Angeles, CA 90015).

For tickets and more info: https://www.dtlaff.com/film/the-sharing-project/105/

The Sharing Project screening at Oaxaca FilmFest on October 7

The Sharing Project movie — Joel Tauber's 29 minute non-fiction film, philosophical journey, personal narrative, and nature film, all intertwined together to explore the meaning of sharing — is screening at Oaxaca FilmFest on October 7 at 2 pm.

I’m thrilled that The Sharing Project movie — my 29 minute non-fiction film, philosophical journey, personal narrative, and nature film, all intertwined together to explore the meaning of sharing — is screening at Oaxaca FilmFest on October 7 at 2 pm. Excited to visit Oaxaca, Mexico for the first time and attend this exceptional festival for the North American premiere of the film.

The film will be screened in English with Spanish subtitles at Cinetransformer (Pañuelito Garden: A Gurrión 102, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., 68000). https://www.oaxacafilmfest.com/p/the-sharing-project