BERLIN — In what was arguably the most moving press conference of the Berlinale, the hour devoted to Gregory Nava’s “Bordertown” was riveting.
The indie pic, which unspooled in Competition Thursday, centers on the ongoing murders of female factory workers in Juarez, on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It stars Jennifer Lopez as a journalist who stumbles upon a town paralyzed by fear.
Given the subject matter and the desire by the filmmakers to raise awareness, this was J-Lo at her most serious and subdued. Even the paparazzi behaved.
“I hadn’t even heard of this problem,” the actress said, in answer to a question about how she got involved in Nava’s project. “Then Gregory brought it to me. I couldn’t believe it when I read the script. All this pain and suffering.”
Asked if her personal life had been affected, she said, “It changed the way I think.” There’s now a Web site for donations to help put pressure on the Mexican and on the American government to crack down on this lawlessness.
The pic had been gestating for almost a decade — and in that time Nava said, hundreds of murdered women turned into thousands. (Some 4,000 Mexican workers have been killed so far, three in the last week.)
Nava, who is Mexican-American, talked about the difficulties of getting the pic financed and made.
For one thing, it wasn’t until J-Lo signed on that there was much chance of getting the finance. And in filming, the director had to rely on his partner Barbara Martinez and the footage she obtained, at great cost and under harassment, in Juarez itself.
“I did receive death threats — but we also had a lot of support from different localities and factories,” Nava said. It was too dangerous, he added, to shoot the scenes with Lopez and Banderas in Juarez.
The presser ended with an impassioned plea to focus on the problem from Norma Andrade, a woman who worked with the filmers: Her daughter was killed by unknowns there in Juarez exactly six years ago.