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Mexico: Tijuana's Unexpected Cinema Movement

Categories: North America, Mexico, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Film

For a long time, Tijuana [1], a city in the north-western corner of Mexico, has had an international reputation for being both a dangerous border town and a temptingly thrilling spring break destination. However, it is now in the international spotlight for a whole different reason: its local cinema movement.

Aaron Soto, a film director and guest blogger at San Diego’s KPBS, provides some information [2] on the current artistic scene in this “bizarre border town”:

There is a new breed of genre filmmakers, spreading throughout the provincial cities. Industry rejecters, that could either not afford film school or that could not conform to the system.  Most of them, create stories of horror, fantasy and science fiction, and most of them, come from an unexpected place, the city of Tijuana.

Why the unexpected place? Because Tijuana has been  cut-off from the rest of the country's own culture for years. Despite being  the world's most-visited border city, Tijuana was considered by Mexico City's centric culture as that bizarre border town that did not seem to have it's own identity, but boy were they wrong!

Later in the post, Soto points out that unlike most Mexican filmmakers [2] who have been influenced by their European counterparts, filmmakers from Tijuana look to their northern neighbors for inspiration:

What were the directors’ intentions? I'm not sure, but if you asked about influences, in Mexico's academic system, filmmakers answer with cliches like Federico Fellini and Jean-Luc Godard. If you ask the border town filmmakers, they will answer with names like David Lynch and Lucio Fulci for sure, but why not? The Tijuana border is 15 minutes from California's cinemas. Dozens of newsstands and libraries, plus the local mom-and-pop video stores insured that Mexican Gen-Xers grew up consuming America's pop culture and it's indie roots, including B-movies, sleaze,  horror, and the macabre from publications like “Famous Monsters of Filmland”  and “Gorezone” magazine, and from writers like Tim Lucas and Pete Tombs. With the injection of their own Mexican culture, how many children grew up watching “El Santo vs Las Vampiras” as well as David Cronenberg's “Videodrome” on the same evening?

Soto also writes about the movement [2] started by some directors from the border city:

Directors like Fran Ilich, Giancarlo Ruiz, Omar Ynigo and myself, started what would become known as the DIY movement from the 00's down in Baja. Editing with two VCR's and creating our own stars, like actor Hector Jimenez (“Nacho Libre”) and our own cult short-films like “Omega Shell,” we started to make films about our everyday life,  the contradictory chaos of the city; sex and religion, the comprehensible and the esoteric, the uncivilized and the technology, pleasure and pain, English and Español and most of all, the culture of violence.

Following a line of recent short films that are based in one city, like ‘Paris, Je t'aime’ or ‘New York, I love you’, there is a proposal [3] to make a Tijuanense version called ‘Tijuana, te amo’. The blog Tijuana Innovadora, Tech and Culture [3] [es] explains:

Presentation of film Tijuana, Te amo. Photo by Gabriel Flores Romero (CC BY 2.0) [4]

Presentation of film Tijuana, Te amo. Photo by Gabriel Flores Romero (CC BY 2.0)

Tijuana Te Amo es un largometraje colectivo que trata de mostrar la parte positiva de Tijuana. Los panelistas transmitieron un video del detrás de cámaras y cómo los directores se pusieron de acuerdo para filmar cada escena. El largometraje sigue el formato de las producciones Paris Je t’aime y New York I love You. La película va más allá de los esterotipos,de la delincuencia, se intentó plasmar el contraste entre las realidades universales y la belleza dijeron los directores.

Tijuana I Love You is a collective feature film that tries to show the positive side of Tijuana. Panelists broadcasted a video of behind the scenes on how the directors agreed to shoot each scene. The film follows the format of the productions Paris Je t'aime and New York I love You. The film goes beyond the stereotypes, crime, as it attempted to capture the contrast between the universal realities and the beauty of it, directors said.

In his blog FimBuffalo Produccciones, blogger Rodrigo Alvarez affirms [5] [es] that there is no place like Tijuana when it comes to making movies:

En lo personal, en ninguna parte de las que he estado, o de la gente con la que he convivido he notado el fenómeno “cinematográfico” que ocurre en tijuana, la pasión y ganas que existe en la gente de realizar proyectos es bastante sorprendente (puede ser que influya mucho el que estemos en frontera con uno de los paises de mayor producción cinematográfica.)

Personally, in none of the places I've visited, or people I've lived with have I noticed the “cinematographic” phenomenon that occurs in Tijuana, the passion and desire that exists in people to do projects is rather surprising (it might happen also because we are in the border with one of the largest countries in film production.)

Finally, Jose Paredes, another blogger from Tijuana, writes about the day he decided [6] [es] to watch 15 hours of cinema made in Tijuana, non-stop:

El jueves pasado me levante a las 8am y me dormi a las 11pm, y durante esas 15 horas que estuve despierto las dedique a una cosa y una cosa solamente: El Cine local. Comenzando en la Lazaro, siguiendole en la Cerveceria Tijuana, y terminando nuevamente en casa de mi hermano Marco. Acabe exhausto debo admitir, pero valio la pena y me senti sumamente completo.

Last Thursday I woke up at 8am and I went to bed at 11pm, and those 15 hours I was awake were dedicated to one thing and one thing only: local cinema. Starting in the Lazaro, then at the Tijuana Brewery, and ending again at my brother Marco's house. I was exhausted in the end, but I must admit it was worth it and it made me feel extremely satisfied.