Taking the Cause to the Big Screen

David N. Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United, co-produced
David N. Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United, co-produced "Border War," a movie that advocates cracking down on illegal immigration. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

David N. Bossie earned a reputation as a relentless sleuth -- or right-wing hit man, depending on one's political persuasion -- during his years as a high-profile Republican congressional investigator and conservative activist.

Through the 1990s, Bossie spent much of his time assembling caches of documents to push his admittedly ideological agenda. He was a ready promoter of stories about President Bill Clinton's sexual and ethical lapses, proved and otherwise.

Bossie was fired as an investigator for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee after overseeing the release of recordings of Hillary Rodham Clinton's phone conversations with Whitewater figure Webster L. Hubbell. The tapes were edited to create the impression that Clinton was involved in billing irregularities at the Arkansas law firm where she and Hubbell worked.

No longer content to merely unearth documents, Bossie, president of Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, has turned to documentary-style films to push his causes. His latest contribution to the national political debate is "Border War," a film he co-produced that makes the case for a serious crackdown on illegal immigration.

The movie, which makes its national premiere in Los Angeles tomorrow, in Washington on Sept. 13 and on DVD in October, tells the story of illegal immigration -- with Bossie's unmistakable point of view. "It shows what illegal immigration means to your average person," he said.

"Border War" does not portray illegal immigrants as economically desperate people who break the law by sneaking across the border then often go on to renew the American dream with their thrift, enterprise and hustle while filling back-breaking jobs that few citizens want.

Instead, the film makes the case for tougher border enforcement by focusing on the most unsettling aspects of the nation's huge illegal immigration problem: the cold-hearted coyotes who guide illegal migrants across the border, sometimes abandoning them in the desert at the first sign of trouble. The illegal immigrants who proposition and even molest young girls in safe houses. Violent criminals who cross the border with impunity. And immigration activists who believe the border has no legitimacy to begin with, because much of the southwestern United States was Mexican territory more than 150 years ago.

"We never really crossed the border," one says. "The border crossed us."

The documentary, shot over six months, weaves this tale by following the lives of five people who embody different aspects of the difficult issue: the widow of a Los Angles County deputy sheriff killed by an illegal immigrant; an open border advocate who helps immigrants making the perilous trek into the United States; a Latina whose father helped smuggle illegal immigrants into the country but now voluntarily patrols the border with the Minutemen; an undercover Border Patrol agent; and Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), a leading advocate of cracking down on illegal immigration.

"It is an exciting way to educate people about issues," Bossie said of his film. "I love any new form of communication to deliver a political message."

Bossie, who has no formal film training, calls himself an accidental moviemaker. In the years after leaving his congressional post, he wrote or co-wrote three books: one slamming former vice president Al Gore, another attacking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and third making a case for how President Clinton's foreign policy set the table for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

When Michael Moore's 2004 documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" proved to be a hit that rallied partisans on the left against President Bush, Bossie said he was surprised and then got on the phone looking for someone to craft a right-wing response. When he got no answer, he reached into Citizens United's deep pockets, put up about $1 million and hired Hollywood stalwarts Lionel Chetwynd, Kevin Knoblock and Ted Steinberg to help him make "Celsius 41.11."


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