2008 POV Preview: ‘The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández’

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We’re preparing for another great season here at POV — and now, we’re less than two months away from the first broadcast of the summer. Today, we’re taking a sneak peek at The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández by Kieran Fitzgerald.

In 1997, U.S. Marines patrolling the Texas-Mexico border as part of the War on Drugs shot and killed Esequiel Hernández Jr. Mistaken for a drug runner, the 18-year-old was, in fact, a U.S. citizen tending his family’s goats with a .22 rifle. He became the first American killed by U.S. military forces on native soil since the 1970 Kent State shootings. The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández, narrated by Tommy Lee Jones, explores Hernández’s tragic death and its torturous aftermath. His parents and friends, the Marines on patrol and investigators discuss the dangers of militarizing the border and the death of one young man.

For more previews of 2008 POV films, check out our TV Schedule.

Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee was formerly a producer with POV Interactive.
  • benson

    FOREIGNID: 15469
    Wow. That trailer is great. Tommy Lee Jones has such a classic voice. Can’t wait to see this movie.
    By the way: STOP THE WALL!

  • glenn howard

    FOREIGNID: 15470
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.

  • Dante Iyanu

    FOREIGNID: 15471
    All I can say is what goes around comes around! It’s too bad this happened. I feel for the Hernandez family. Look the lives of some of the marines. Some of them got their “karma”.
    Specially the one who was addicted on drugs. He lost his own precious family. Looks like he lost his dignity as well.”karma”. They seem to all have guilt in their faces. No matter what they said. It shows on their faces.

  • Alejandro

    FOREIGNID: 15472
    I remember this incident when it first happened. Regardless of what explanations and excuses people give for the Marines’ behavior, nobody won — not even the self-righteous attorneys, especially Zimmerman who was the most obnoxious person they interviewed. Not surprisingly, all the right-wingers take the military’s side, even though there was clear obstruction of justice and a ‘blame the victim’ mentality. And yes, there is a tinge of racism to it. If Esequiel Hernandez had been an elderly White male with a criminal history, Bill O’Reilly and all the other conservative mouthpieces would defend his right to carry a gun to protect himself. But, because Hernandez was Hispanic — and an American, I might emphasize — suddenly people question why he had the gun in the first place. Of course, most people who live in rural, sparsely-populated areas carrying firearms when they go out onto their property. If O’Reilly and anyone else feel such incidents are just unfortunate “accidents,” then tell that to the Hernandez family. The military had no business placing combat-ready Marines in that region. If the U.S. government wants to stop drug trafficking, go after the addicts. James Blood said it best in the documentary; he had hoped to catch some drug smugglers in Presidio County. Instead, he turned into something he hated: a crytsl meth addict. The drug problem isn’t sneaking across the border; it’s right next door. For every Mexican citizen who uses drugs, 10 Americans do the same. All of those young Marines were caught in circumstances beyond their control, so I don’t blame them entirely. The U.S. Justice Department shouldn’t have dropped this case, and punished Banuelos with a dishonorable discharge and prison time. But, all four of them will have to live with that incident for the rest of their lives. I’m a proud American whose ancestry in Texas extends back to the 1580′s. The Hernandez family never received proper justice — which doesn’t surprise me, considering they’re Hispanic. But, I’m certain Esequiel is watching over them.

  • Mari Alfaro

    FOREIGNID: 15473
    Why did Justice Dept drop this case. This isnt fair how safe are we really. For them to be covering thier own tracks really ticks me off. So they said they fired for defense but this is one civilian we saw here not multiple even the evidence show it . Why didnt president Bush speak out for the family since he was so close to the Librarian of Redrock. What a terrible american he is.

  • Chief William Hoff

    FOREIGNID: 15474
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. I was so glad to see this film at my home in Northern New Mexico. I knew the Hernandez family and my little brother went to school with Esequiel in Presidio Texas. I feel like there has been a great injustice done to the Hernandez family the community of Redford and to the memory of Esequiel. The Hernandez Family have taken all that has happened with dignity and grace and I can’t say that I would do the same in this situation. “Con Poder de Dios”!

  • http://www.pbs.org/pov/blog/2008/07/whats_your_pov_the_ballad_of_e_1.html Stephen Q.

    FOREIGNID: 15475
    Ultimately, this film seeks to point out that there was absolutely no accountability whatsoever for such an unfortunate event that really should not have occurred. In a country and world governed by laws that are established to protect the rights and well beings of its citizens, the absence of such accountability is blatant injustice. At the end of the day, you have a family still grieving and healing over the loss of a son and a sibling, still looking for answers, still looking for that closure… Something that they will likely never find and that, to me, is sad.