The US/Mexico Border in Film

Tuesday, August 22 at 1:30pm

SICARIO

Denis Villeneuve (U.S. 2015) 121 min. DCP. With Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro. English and Spanish with English subtitles.

Hollywood took notice of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve after his 2013 Prisoners; two films later was this Mexican drug cartel thriller, and next to be released is Blade Runner 2049 – sure to make the filmmaker a household name (for better or for worse). “Sicario’s every moment unambiguously execrates the war on drugs, depicting clandestine U.S. interventions that only help perpetuate a billion-dollar industry at the expense of tens of thousands of Mexicans caught in the crossfire” (José Teodoro, Film Comment).

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Tuesday, August 29 at 1:30pm

CARTEL LAND

Matthew Heineman (U.S. 2015) 100 min. DCP. With Tim Nailer Foley, José Manuel ‘El Doctor’ Mireles, Paco Valencia. English and Spanish with English subtitles.

Matthew Heineman won Sundance’s best director award for his unprecedented nonfiction look at two vigilante groups fighting murderous drug cartels on both sides of the Mexican border. Months after the film’s Sundance premiere, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty) signed on as Executive Producer; doing so linked the acclaimed action director’s recognition of America’s dysfunctional policies – and the moral uncertainty of its international actions–with Cartel Land’s unsettling of mainstream perceptions of the war on drugs.

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Tuesday, September 5 at 1:30pm

WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?

Marc Silver (U.S. 2013) 85 min. DCP. With Gael García Bernal. English and Spanish with English subtitles.

When the body of an unidentified immigrant was found in the Arizona Desert, director Marc Silver and actor Gael Garcia Bernal, in an attempt to retrace the man’s path and discover his story, embedded themselves among migrant travelers on their own mission to cross the border. Winner of the Sundance World Cinema documentary award, Who Is Dayani Cristal? witnesses firsthand the human toll of migrants struggling to reach the United States.

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Tuesday, September 12 at 1:30pm

DESIERTO

Alfonso Cuarón (Mexico/France 2015) 88 min. DCP. With Gael García Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo. English and Spanish with English subtitles.

From the filmmakers behind Gravity (2013), comes a unique, modern vision of terror. What begins as a hopeful journey to seek a better life becomes a harrowing and primal fight for survival when a deranged, rifle-toting vigilante chases a group of unarmed men and women through the harsh, unforgiving desert terrain of the U.S.-Mexican border.

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Tuesday, September 19 at 1:30pm

SIN NOMBRE

Cary Joji Fukunaga (Mexico/U.S. 2009) 96 min. 35MM. With Paulina Gaitan, Marco Antonio Aguirre, Leonardo Alonso. Spanish with English subtitles.

This double winner at Sundance was Cary Joji Fukunaga’s feature debut, and won him immediate acclaim. Weaving the story of a Honduran woman on an odyssey en route to the United States across the Latin American countryside with that of a young gang member from southern Mexico, Sin Nombre was inspired by a 2003 story about 80 immigrants found locked in a truck and abandoned in Texas. Nineteen died.

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Tuesday, September 26 at 1:30pm

EL NORTE

Gregory Nava (UK/U.S. 1983) 141 min. With David Villalpando, Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez, Ernesto Gómez Cruz. Spanish and Mayan with English subtitles.

Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. It’s a story that happens every day, but until Gregory Nava’s groundbreaking El Norte (The North), the personal travails of immigrants crossing the border to America had never been shown in the movies with such urgent humanism. A work of social realism imbued with dreamlike imagery, El Norte is a lovingly rendered, heartbreaking story of hope and survival, which critic Roger Ebert called “a Grapes of Wrath for our time.”

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Tuesday, October 17 at 1:30pm

A BETTER LIFE

Chris Weitz (U.S. 2011) 98 min. 35MM. With Demián Bichir, José Julián, Eddie ‘Piolin’ Sotelo. English and Spanish with English subtitles.

An undocumented Mexican day laborer and single dad (Bichir) embarks on a physical and spiritual journey in order to reconnect with his teenage son and keep him from getting pulled into local gang life. “Dragging into the light those who prefer to exist in shadows, [director Chris] Weitz forces us to confront a world where every stranger is a threat, every cop an enemy, and crime must be handled without official help” (Jeannette Catsoulis).

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Tuesday, October 24 at 1:30pm

DJANGO

Sergio Corbucci (Italy/Spain 1966) 92 min. DCP. With Franco Nero, José Canalejas, José Bódalo. English dubbed.

In a star making role, Franco Nero plays Django, a mysterious lone gunslinger who comes to town dragging a coffin behind him and finds himself in the middle of a war between Mexican revolutionaries and a sadistic, racist gang. Scandalously violent, Django helped establish the Spaghetti Western as an internationally popular genre and went on to influence one of recent American cinema’s most violent (and popular) directors. “Before you see Quentin Tarantino’s epic homage… see the real thing: Corbucci’s bloody, muddy 1966 masterpiece,” (New York Magazine).

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Tuesday, October 31 at 1:30pm

THE WILD BUNCH

Sam Peckinpah (U.S. 1969) 145 min. 35MM. With William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates.

In 1913, as America’s once-wild frontier is becoming urbanized, suburbanized and mechanized, the outlaw Pike (Holden) and his gang flee to the only land left without laws: Mexico. Filmed at the height of the Vietnam War, The Wild Bunch revolutionized American cinema, and arguably American society, with its graphic bloodshed. Where death was once swift and clean in Hollywood’s imagination, The Wild Bunch pictured it as slow, chaotic and brutal. Now considered a classic, and restored to its original length, the film has inspired filmmakers from Quentin Tarantino to John Woo; its violence has long since been topped, but its poetic, almost sensuous beauty has not. (Adapted from Pacific Film Archive notes)

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Tuesday, November 7 at 1:30pm

SHORTS PROGRAM

CROSSINGS 

Robert Fenz (U.S. 2007) 10 min. 16MM.

“An abstract portrait of the border wall. Both sides are confronted. The film is a short installment on a larger project that investigates insularity in both geographical and cultural terms” (Robert Fenz).

EL MOJADO

Danny Lyon (U.S. 1974) 14 min. English and Spanish with English subtitles.

Photo-journalist Danny Lyon’s filmic portrait of his friend is also the chronicle of a hard-working undocumented laborer from Chihuahua.

THE OTHER SIDE 

Bill Brown (U.S. 2006) 42 min. 16MM.

This personal essay film is imbued with magical landscapes and searing observations spoken during the (then Texas-based) director’s cinematic trek along the U.S./Mexico border. Brown considers the border as an historical and political geography of aspiration, insecurity and transition, and talks to undocumented immigrants who have risked their lives and border activists at odds with homeland security (Film Society of Lincoln Center).

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Tuesday, November 14 at 1:30pm

EL MAR LA MAR – Area Premiere!

J.P. Sniadecki and Joshua Bonnetta (U.S. 2017) 94 min. 35MM.

Weaving together sublime 16mm shots of nature, weather phenomena, animals, people and the tracks they leave behind with oral histories of border crossings, El mar la mar is both a poetic exploration of the desert habitat and a multi-faceted cinematic panorama of a highly politicized stretch of land. Shot over several years in the Sonoran Desert near the U.S./Mexico border, the film is a striking collaboration between J.P. Sniadecki’s (Foreign Parts) attentive and humanistic approach to documentary and Josh Bonnetta’s meditation on film’s materiality.

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Tuesday, November 28 at 1:30pm

SLEEP DEALER

Alex Rivera (U.S. 2008) 90 min. DCP. With Luis Fernando Peña, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas. Spanish and English with English subtitles.

Alex Rivera’s first feature was this science-fiction story set on the U.S./Mexico border and concerned with Memo Cruz (Peña), a young man who dreams of the impossible: crossing over to the United States. A cult film conceived in the late 90s by the son of an immigrant, Sleep Dealer is a prescient imagination of a future where migration is virtual: workers connect their bodies to the internet, thereby controlling a machine that performs labor in America. “It’s been really strange,” says Rivera. “It’s a wonderful-horrible

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Tuesday, December 5 at 1:30pm

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez (U.S. 1996) 108 min. With George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin.

George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino are brothers running from the law and fleeing to Mexico with a kidnapped family in tow. There they encounter the bloodthirsty patrons of a local bar, in this “deliriously trashy, exuberantly vulgar, lavishly appointed exploitation picture, a weird combo of roadkill movie and martial-arts vampire gorefest” (Variety).

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