McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Balancing on a 1-inch thick highline straddling the United States and Mexico about 500 feet above the Rio Grande was as much physical as it was symbolic for Corbin Kunst to show how close the two countries really are and how close its people should be, Kunst told Border Report on Tuesday.
In “The Imaginary Line,” a 10-minute film shot earlier this year and released Sunday on YouTube, Kunst and Jamie Marrufo, of Mexico, walk the highline 300 yards from either side. The film by Kylor Melton is drawing much attention from national media and on social media.
Melton and Kunst, both 27 and from Bend, Oregon, said they trekked to Texas from the Pacific Northwest in February — when the federal government was shut down over funding for President Trump’s border wall — to launch this physical feat to make a statement about how geographically close both countries are, and how they believe the border should remain.
“Our entire government body was shut down and I couldn’t think of a more powerful symbol of coming together than walking across the rope strung between two countries,” Melton said via phone on Tuesday.
The one-inch-thick flat rope, called a slackline, was tethered to both countries by teams from each side. The teams had met up days before, paddled the currents of the Rio Grande and camped outdoors until they found the perfect spot to walk across the canyons separating these controversial and patrolled waters.
They found the spot about 20 miles northwest of Big Bend National Park. In the film, they show how within one day they had set up the highline, walked across it multiple times — even with both men meeting in the middle, and laying on it in the middle touching feet — and then tore it down.
“It was very important to have two groups. It was really about the symbol of putting each others’ lives into each others’ hands,” Melton said. “We’re giving our lives to the other side, and in that sense trusting and believing in them. And it’s that simple symbol of trust alone that I think is so powerful.”
It was really about the symbol of putting each others’ lives into each others’ hands.”Kylor Melton, “The Imaginary Line” film maker
“Walking the highline was pretty surreal. I feel it is the most important slack line I’ve ever walked because it wasn’t just for me. I was walking it as a message to the world,” Kunst said.
Kunst and Marrufo wore safety harnesses that were tethered to a secondary rope. If they fell, which they said they didn’t, they would only have dropped about five feet and would then have had to climb back up atop the slackline.
Kunst has been highlining for five years and works on highwires doing specialty bridge and construction jobs. He also offers workshops in slacklining and trains highliners.
“I wanted this story to be one about connection and creating and maintaining good relationships with Mexico and with the world,” said Kunst, who came up with the idea.
“With all the fear around immigration and getting more strict with immigration laws and making it harder for people to legally seek asylum here that does not benefit anyone,” Kunst said. “This was to send a message that we don’t want to isolate ourselves, we wanted to come together and celebrate our differences.”
This was to send a message that we don’t want to isolate ourselves.”Highline walker Corbin Kunst
Melton, who self-funded the film and was interviewed by CNN, says the media attention so far has taken him by surprise.
On social media, the film is picking up traction, with many teachers commenting that they want to show it to their classes and they hope it will inspire their students. Now, he hopes that he can show the film in festivals “to provoke discussion.”
On his Facebook page, Melton wrote: “My hope is this film can inspire us to have those difficult conversations around immigration, human rights, white privilege and inclusion in the outdoors, politics, the climate crisis and much more in a compassionate way. Using our passions to connect with peoples of the world.”
Melton told Border Report: “It’s a really dark subject and my greatest hope for this is this can be a symbol of light in these dark times.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.