You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Women Directors Tell Stories Along U.S.-Mexico Border Amid Immigration Debate

It seems straightforward enough. The Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase, a festival based in El Paso, Texas, exhibits short movies from female filmmakers who live along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But it’s also a combustible recipe. Ever since Donald Trump jumped onto the national stage last June, referring to Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, the border — and the proposed wall he wants to build along it — have become a lightning rod for passionate arguments from all sides of the inflammatory immigration debate.

The Femme Frontera filmmakers find themselves at the center of this firestorm. They hail from such places as Texas and New Mexico in the U.S., and Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua in Mexico. And they provide personal and unique perspectives on the border communities.

“Based on how immigrants from Mexico are currently being depicted as criminals, it’s crucial that we continue to share stories of what life is really like on the border,” says fest founder Angie Tures.

Ilana Lapid, a film professor at New Mexico State University who has shot two films on the border, was in the fest with “La Catrina,” about a farm worker grieving her husband’s death. “I grew up in several countries,” she says. “Borders have always interested me. They’re places where worlds meet and often collide. They’re places of conflict, but also of creativity and connection.”

To shoot along the border, Lapid had to tap into area resources and communities for support. In exploring the story and symbols for her film, she kept things local, hiring crew on the spot and casting non-actors.

Laura Bustillos Jáquez — born in Ciudad Juárez and raised just over the border in El Paso — also shot in the area. Her short nonfiction film “Undocumented Freedom” follows a man who came to the U.S. as a child illegally to flee human trafficking. She participates in demonstrations and performance-art pieces on the Ciudad Juárez bridge that links the two cities, usually without incident.

“When it’s a demonstration that’s been announced publicly,” she explains, “the federal Mexican police have assured us that they’re looking out for us. But there have been times when I’ve been asked to stop filming or taking pictures, and a [U.S. Immigrations] agent will tell me that they’re afraid people are documenting areas so they can plant bombs.”

Jáquez is quick to point out that while she’s generally stopped for filming only if she doesn’t have a permit — just as she would be in L.A. — others must deal with much more harrowing incidents. Some people get detained or arrested, she says. “I’m privileged with a legal visa. I can go up to the bridge, to a border wall, and have no fear that they’ll kick me out or arrest me.”

El Paso native Iliana Sosa, whose film “Child of the Desert” tells the story of an unlikely connection between a West Texas mom and an undocumented immigrant, feels attitudes have changed since Trump’s election, but not all for the worse. “Before the election,” she says, “I used to wonder why people weren’t more open to talking about immigration. Post-election, I feel like people are more open to discussing it.”

Femme Frontera films sold out the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in El Paso last summer and are now touring other U.S. cities.

Further advancing the Femme Frontera narrative, Sosa and co-director Chelsea Hernandez are working with Firelight Media and visual journalism shop Field of Vision, founded by “Citizenfour” director-producer Laura Poitras, on a short documentary that follows two pregnant women — one undocumented, the other married to an undocumented immigrant — and shows how they’re affected by Trump’s policies.

It’s part of the two companies’ Our 100 Days initiative to produce and distribute 10 short films in which a diverse section of filmmakers highlight the impact of Trump’s campaign promises on the communities most affected by them.

Sosa says the initiative would have never happened had Trump not been elected. “But it’s sad that [this is what got] people to suddenly care about our stories,” she adds. “We’ve always been here, but now people are interested in what we have to say.”

More Artisans

  • Home Again Trinidad and Tobago

    Trinidad and Tobago Attracts Producers by Adding Hefty Cash Incentive to Visual Lures

    A dual-island Caribbean nation that fits fulfills the all visual requirements of a tropical paradise, Trinidad and Tobago offers a striking variety of shooting locales ranging from azure waters, white sands, thick jungle, sprawling savannahs and – on the urban side – bustling cities. Though the islands have predominantly housed local films, they are now [...]

  • Netflix Our Planet Sophie Darlington

    Netflix's 'Our Planet' Roars to Life With Work by Top Wildlife Cinematographers

    In terms of scope, production time and — very likely — budget, Netflix’s “Our Planet” is one of the most ambitious projects from the streaming service to date. Narrated by David Attenborough and made available worldwide on April 5, the goal of the eight-part series is to capture diverse habitats across the globe and highlight [...]

  • Les Miserables BBC

    BBC's 'Les Miserables' Recreates the Dark World of Victor Hugo's Novel

    Director Tom Shankland didn’t want his “Les Miserables” to be anything like the stage-musical version of Victor Hugo’s sweeping historical novel, nor like the 2012 Tom Hooper feature-film musical.  For the BBC limited series — a drama starring Olivia Colman, Lily Collins, David Oyelowo and Dominic West, which aired the first of its six episodes in [...]

  • Marsai Martin Little Movie

    How the 'Little' Production Team Created Look of Marsai Martin-Regina Hall Comedy

    What if you could return to a time in your childhood and relive your life from that point knowing what you know now? That’s the fantasy at the core of Universal’s “Little,” released April 12, in which Regina Hall’s Jordan Sanders, a character overwhelmed by the pressures of adulthood, gets the chance to relive the [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 BTS

    How 'Game of Thrones'' Locations Have Expanded With the Series

    When the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” debuts on April 14, the show’s millions of followers will once again be transported to the exotic lands and sweeping landscapes where the saga is set. From King’s Landing to The Wall, stunning locations have been woven into the fabric of “Thrones” since its [...]

  • In The Dark CW

    How 'In the Dark' Trained a Regular Dog to Act as a Guide Dog

    There used to be an adage in show business about never working with animals or children, but for Violetta Hessing, there’s nothing more fulfilling than finding a dog that wants to be on set and training it to deliver just as much emotion as its human scene partners. Hessing owns and is the head trainer [...]

  • Ryan Higa Youtube Star

    YouTube Star Ryan Higa Shows the Way to Maintain Independence With DIY Studio

    Hollywood creatives have always dreamed of having total control of their work. For most of them, it has been just that: a dream.  But that doesn’t hold true for a new breed of content creators: YouTube influencers. These individuals, with no corporate boss to answer to, and whose work is growing in scope and impact, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content