This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
What may be the most controversial ad of Super Bowl 51 a Mexican woman and her young daughter making their way to the U.S. border was directed by Salt Lake City filmmaker Cole Webley.
Reactions to the spot have been passionate and divided: Some have hailed it as a positive statement for legal immigration; and others argue it is propaganda for President Donald Trump's views on Mexicans entering the country.
In a Salt Lake Tribune interview via email from Mexico, Webley, a 34-year-old BYU grad in media arts, agreed that the spot has been polarizing.
Although he did not write the piece, Webley said it helps put a face on immigrants.
"What I've been pleased with are those from both sides of the political spectrum who recognize what we were trying to do bring a sense of humanity to the word 'immigrant,' " Webley said. "People can debate whether the film emboldens illegal immigration or whether it doesn't, but I hope, most of all, the film inspires a more empathetic view of the individual."
The 90-second TV ad ends with the weary pair camped in the desert. It directed the Super Bowl audience to view the conclusion of "The Journey" on it's website. Within minutes the site crashed from the overwhelming response.
The ad was sponsored by 84 Lumber, a Pennsylvania-based building material supplier, and was produced by Brunner, a Pittsburgh advertising firm.
The controversy is due, in part, to statements from 84 Lumber's CEO Maggie Hardy Magerko, who took over her family's $2.86 billion company in 1992. She has told a number of media outlets that she is a Trump supporter and believes that a border wall is necessary.
The second part of "The Journey" shows the woman and her daughter suffering additional hardships on their long journey. Finally, they come to the border but much to their dismay, it is guarded by a giant wall.
Then the young girl reaches into her backpack and retrieves a small American flag she has fashioned from scraps. Moments later, the mother spots a stripe of sunlight cutting the shadow of the wall. The light, they discover, is shining through a crack between two large swinging doors, which they push open and enter the United States.
The mother and daughter walk into a shining new day, and the ad's final message appears on the screen: "The will to succeed is always welcome here."
Trump has said the U.S. would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it. "We're going to do a wall; we're going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall; we're going to have people come in, but they're going to come in legally," he said at the third Republican debate, hosted by CNBC.
But the Super Bowl ad left many viewers puzzled did the pair enter legally or not?
"We need to keep America safe," Magerko told People magazine. "America needs to be safe, so you and I can have the liberty to talk… The wall, I think it represents, to me, security. I like security."
For his part, Webley said he doesn't know where Magerko stands on every political issue, but noted that she is brave for telling the story.
"I didn't vote for Trump, I couldn't vote for Trump. But I'm so proud of Maggie's desire to tell this story," Webley said. "I think his plan to build a wall is misguided... However, if he truly means that he'd put a big door in his wall then I would suggest putting thousands of doors. Our country is a nation of immigrants."
Webley hopes the ad will foster more empathy for immigrants.
"For me, the film honors those who seek to find better opportunity and usually not for themselves but for their loved ones," he explained. "It shouldn't have to be said that all of us involved in the project support legal and safe immigration. After all, the door wasn't wide open. There is a necessary process."
At its core, Webley said, the ad celebrates the drive and will to succeed a traditional American value.
"I hope this film has opened the door for a little growth," he said, "in all who spent the time to watch it."