Filmed in 2018 and 2019, just as the caravans made international news, Blood on the Wall is both intimate and wide-ranging as it follows a 17-year-old journeying from Honduras, a mother and daughter and their family trying to make the life-threatening trek easier for their kids, and smugglers and traffickers who reveal what set them on their own path. Using the same on-the-ground journalism and granular point of view that Junger and Quested used in Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, Korengal, and the Oscar-nominated Restrepo, Blood on the Wall brings the humanity of the migrants to the forefront and untangles how politics, the drug trade, violence, and the desire for safety result in unbelievable anguish happening in plain sight.
Blood on the Wall came together as Junger and his production partner, co-producer, and co-director Quested were exploring their next project after Hell on Earth. Junger and Quested wanted to look at other global hot spots and examine the geopolitical dynamics that fuel them. As they decided on Mexico, Junger says, “We wanted to try to understand, Why is there this level of dysfunction and violence in this country on our border? Where did it come from, and where is it going?”
Pre-production research, knowledge, and timing coalesced as Quested began the research process and brought a small Mexico-based crew together.
“We’d decided on Mexico prior to the caravans,” says Quested, whose work has encompassed social reform, international issues, war zones, refugee crises, and the rap music world. “There had been a smaller caravan about a year before we started. But we wanted to focus on the larger issues surrounding migration, so we went down and began researching it, to tell the story of what’s going on there.”
That story had numerous spokes in a wheel that led straight into a humanitarian tragedy most visible to the world via the ongoing migration crisis. The complex web of forces, including state insecurity and supply and demand in the drug trade, has resulted in deep problems within Mexico, which was ruled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, known as the PRI) from 1929 to 2000 — and which hasn’t expelled the remnants of systemic dictatorship, including under current president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, referred to as AMLO, who took office in 2018.
Mexico, which had a record 34,500 murders in 2019 according to The New York Times, “has all the hallmarks of a failed state, and it’s right next to the most affluent country in the world — it really needs to be understood,” says Junger. “And if you’re going to understand Mexico, you have to understand immigration, the narcotics trade, the symbiotic relationship between America and Mexico, and an acknowledgment of the enormous amount of drugs that Americans buy, which fuels the narco-state.”
“If you don’t see it in a holistic way, you’ll never figure out the problem, and will never help people in either country rise to a better place,” Junger adds.
Blood on the Wall can be seen via National Geographic documentary films and premieres on National Geographic Channel on Wednesday, September 30, at 9 PM EST/ 6PM PST
Check out the trailer: