May 1, 2008

Bordertown- Another Film About Women Goes Straight to DVD

One of the most brutal and under acknowledged stories over the last decade has been the mass murders of young Mexican women workers. There have been a couple of documentaries (notably Lourdes Portillo's Senorita Extraviada), yet this is another women's issue that continually gets pushed under the carpet.

I got excited when I read a couple of years ago that director Gregory Nava and Jennifer Lopez were teaming up to create a fictionalized version of the story, Bordertown. We all know its hard to make films about women, even for a star like Lopez (who has a very mixed record in films.) But to make a film about such a tough subject has got to be even harder. But they made it and premiered it a couple of years ago at the Berlin International Film Festival where it was received poorly. THINKFilm still picked it up and was going to release it, but that never happened. (I think it may have played only in El Paso, Texas.)

So here's the case of another women's film going straight to DVD. The film has a cast that includes Martin Sheen, Antonio Banderas and Sonia Braga. These are not no-names.

But the subject proved too tough. Women being murdered. Who really wants to see that?

I do and finally did. It's not the best movie, Lopez is uneven and let's just say she's a better singer than actress. She plays Lauren Adrian a reporter from the fictional Chicago Sentinel sent by her editor (Martin Sheen) to cover the murders. She is a woman trying to run away from her past, trying to deny that she could just as likely have been these women if her life hadn't turned out a little differently. But, when she gets on the ground and starts digging, she changes. The government of Mexico is covering up the murders, intimidating witnesses and making people disappear. It's creepy to watch how systemically these murders are denied. The film does go off the rails at times in the thriller aspects, but there is no denying its a powerful story.

The most important moments of the film come at the end when Lauren files her story accusing NAFTA and corporate America for complicity in the murders. With NAFTA in the news again because of the presidential elections its interesting to see another perspective of how people are affected by this free trade which Lauren calls "slave trade." The story gets spiked and Sheen (who remember was the one who encouraged Lauren to go and tell the story) is the one who stabs her in the back. She goes after his integrity as an editor and he offers a line I would guess is being repeated all across the newspaper business: "corporate America is running the show and the news agenda is free trade, globalization and entertainment."

It sure is and this political drama seems to be a casualty of these same issues. Let's not forget these women who are being murdered in factories that make our cheap computers. Rent it and see for yourself. It's available on Netflix.