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The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández
Directed by Kieran Fitzgerald

101 minutes, color, 2008

Watch on Apple TV



This Emmy®-Nominated documentary from 2008 remains one of the most relevant and widely discussed portraits of the U.S.-Mexico border. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Tommy Lee Jones, it chronicles the tragic 1997 killing of 18-year-old American high school student, Esequiel Hernández, by a team of U.S. Marines near the town of Redford, TX.

The incident sparked a historic standoff between the FBI and Texas Rangers-who wanted to try the Marines for murder-and the U.S. military, and brought about a temporary halt to all domestic military operations in the War on Drugs. But now, with the War on Terror and the politicization of immigration, the military has returned to the border in even greater force.

Featuring powerful interviews with the Hernández family, FBI, Border Patrol, military brass, and the Marines themselves, this urgent and cautionary tale continues to shed new light on the dangers of treating the U.S.-Mexico border as a war zone.

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"In 2005 Tommy Lee Jones directed and starred in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a grimly comic movie about a Texas ranch foreman's quest to give a proper burial to his friend, a Mexican goat herder who was killed, mistakenly, by a Border Patrol officer. The story clearly has a grip on Mr. Jones: now he's the narrator of The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández, a documentary by Kieran Fitzgerald about the 1997 incident that inspired Melquiades Estrada. And while Mr. Fitzgerald's film may not have the firepower of Mr. Jones's, it is, in its smaller way, the more gripping." - Mike Hale, The New York Times

"One film sure to create a stir on both sides of the border is director Kieran Fitzgerald's disquieting The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández, which recounts in chilling, unsentimental detail the 1997 shooting death of the eponymous Mexican-American high school student by a four-man U.S. Marine border patrol in Redford, Texas. With its harrowing on-camera testimonials from Hernández's family and friends, as well as three of the four implicated Marines, it offers an urgent contribution to the raging debate over the physical and psychological divides separating the U.S. from its neighbor to the south."- Scott Foundas, LA Weekly

"With an accountant's methodical attention and a true-crime maven's taste for a great story, Fitzgerald's memorable film documents a tragic border incident that sheds light on the uses of U.S. military on home soil. Audiences who see this engrossing report will wonder why such an important event has been allowed to drift into obscurity, to say nothing of developing a general anger that justice hasn't been served." - Robert Koehler, Variety

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