/ Modified aug 4, 2012 6:49 a.m.

Documentary Tells Story of Desert Deaths

New film aims to explore migrant deaths in the Arizona desert through medical investigators' work

Local filmmakers Austin Counts and Devlin Houser are the producers of a new film entitled Dead in the Desert.

The documentary begins as Pima County medical investigators work to identify and repatriate the bodies of two suspected undocumented immigrants: one found in Arivaca and one found on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

“Once we got into the Office of the Medical Examiner and started working there, we noticed that we had something that people hadn’t seen before,” says Counts. “We set our sights with the footage that we had with the OME, and followed the people that we found in the desert.”

Counts says he wants the film to help put a face on migrant deaths. He says media is too often focused on the political perspective of immigration.

“It doesn’t matter what side of the illegal immigration debate they stand on,” says Counts. “What matters is that people dying in the Sonoran Desert is morally reprehensible.”

Houser says he and Counts amassed hundreds of hours of interviews and footage, and the film provides a detailed perspective on illegal immigration and the tragedies that often take place in the desert.

“What we really tried to do is portray this as accurately as possible,” says Houser. “We had to walk a very fine line with what’s tasteful and what’s not, but we tried to make it as clear and precise as possible.”

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