Missing in Brooks County

The desert is a weapon

Missing in Brooks County Two families search for their loved ones who went missing in the fields of Brooks County, Texas after crossing from Mexico and find a sobering truth: the deadliest part of the journey is far from the border. This sobering doc offers a deeply humane and nuanced portrait of the human rights workers, activists and law enforcement agents who confront the life-and-death consequences of a broken immigration system.


Laurel Peabody | Independent Lens award | Winner
LaurelOfficial Selection | Doc NYC
LaurelWinner | Best Southern Feature | Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
LaurelWinner | Best Feature | Thin Line Film Festival
LaurelOfficial Selection | United Nations Association Film Festival

Reviews and More

As harrowing as it is prognostic.” - Foreign Policy

A sobering piece of film about frustration with our nation’s systemic inhumanity.” - Film International

One of the most nuanced and disturbing films about the immigration crisis.” - The Boston Globe

The filmmakers explore why this region can be particularly deadly for migrants and the flaws in local, state and federal systems .” - Time

 Missing in Brooks County
(2020) on IMDb

The Producers

Lisa Molomot - Co-Director, Producer

A graduate of the American Film Institute Lisa Molomot has directed and edited documentaries about the American Southwest in recent years including Precious Knowledge, The Cleaners, and Soledad. She has also focused on stories about education. Her hugely popular film School's Out has been an integral part of the movement for providing outdoor education for young children, and her recent short film Teaching in Arizona is an inside look at the teaching crisis in that state.

Jeff Bemiss - Co-Director, Producer

Jeff Bemiss is an award-winning, Oscar-shortlisted writer/director who has worked in shorts, features and documentaries. His work has aired on network television and PBS. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California film school and the L.A. Sanford Meisner Academy. Bemiss is a Connecticut Artist Fellow and a Film Independent Fast Track Fellow. He freelances for disability and social activist clients and teaches film at Trinity College in Hartford, CT

Jacob Bricca, A.C.E. - Editor, Producer

Jacob Bricca is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has edited on over a dozen
features, including Lost in La Mancha (IFC Films) and the 2016 Sundance Special Jury Prize winner The Bad Kids. He last worked with Molomot on her feature The Hill, which was broadcast on PBS. A member of the American Cinema Editors, he is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona's School of Theatre, Film & Television and the author of Documentary Editing: Principles and Practice (Focal Press).

Making The Film

Director's Statement

MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY began as the story of a forensic scientist who was trying to identify migrants who had been buried anonymously in Brooks County, Texas. But each time we returned to South Texas the story got bigger, as we realized the complexity and severity of the situation. We met migrants, sheriffs and activists. Ranchers, Rangers and vigilantes. Consuls, judges, and undertakers. Prior to making this film, co-directors Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss held stereotypical images of people such as Border Patrol agents, law enforcement personnel, and Texas ranchers. These have been obliterated by making this film, which attempts to convey some of the complexity of the situations we encountered.

Border Patrol is given the job of manning a massive immigration checkpoint deliberately situated in the middle of a treacherous desert, but also of saving the lives of migrants who attempt to circumvent it. Local ranchers are divided over what to do about the situation. Migrants themselves often have no idea of the true dangers of the journey they have chosen to undertake, and are at the mercy of coyotes (human smugglers) who will leave them to die if they cannot keep up over the three-to-four day trek.

To document this complexity, vérité footage is the foundation of MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY. We have been present at many moments of discovery and revelation, documenting the missing as they were reported, rescued, recovered or exhumed. We rode with Sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol, with ranchers and vigilantes. We filmed men and women wading across the Rio Grande at night, and we filmed men and women as they surrendered to Brooks County law enforcement, dehydrated and exhausted. We filmed the emotional testimony of a border crosser, his face shielded, as he described the moment he realized the teenage boy he was carrying was no longer alive.

After meeting families of the missing, it became clear that they had to be at the center of the story, even as we continued to insist on also building a portrait of everyday life in Falfurrias, Texas. As rendered through the stories of Homero Román and Juan Maceda, our vision for MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY is an immersive experience of an American town that has been caught in the middle of the daily life and death situation created by the American immigration system. And just as we have learned so much in making this film, we hope viewers will look at immigration in a new way and begin to include the deceased and the missing in the debate.

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