'Cine En La Frontera' Film Contest Presents Borderland Stories By Arizona-Sonora Filmmakers
Dozens of students huddled together, leaning over tables and circled in small groups on the floor at the Technological Institute in Agua Prieta. It's a Saturday morning in late October, and the students weren't here for their usual engineering classes. Instead, they were shuffling around small slips of paper, arranging them into a narrative arc during a filmmaking workshop.
It was led by Luis Carlos Davis, a director and producer from Ambos Nogales.
“I was raised in ambos lados," he said. "Nogales, Sonora, and Nogales, Arizona.”
Davis' connection to the borderlands brought him to this two-day, binational workshop in Douglas and Agua Prieta. It’s part of "Cine En La Frontera" or "Cinema On The Border." It's a short film contest for student and emerging filmmakers from both Arizona and Sonora.
Davis started the class by asking the aspiring filmmakers how border communities are usually depicted in the media.
“A lot of the narratives that are told about this region, are from people who are not from this area," he said. "So. I think it’s time for us to start telling our own stories.”
Workshops like this one, he said, are a chance to help young people gain the storytelling skills to go beyond “black and white” narratives about the borderlands.
“There’s this gray area that people don’t see, so that’s why I want to show people this gray area," said Ammi Robles, a young filmmaker from Douglas-Agua Prieta. She attended the film workshop and submitted a short film to the Cine En La Frontera contest.
She said stories representing her community are often missing something: "The people. Their feelings."
That's why she wants to make her own films about living in the borderlands.
"To show people who ho we are, like, who we really are.”
And that’s what Cine En La Frontera is all about, said Jenea Sanchez, president and founder of the Border Arts Corridor in Douglas.
“With this project, we wanted to ask our community, send us your stories, send us your videos that relate to where you live," she said. “We often hear about trade and commerce and how the border is so important. But in this case we centered local stories.”
Sanchez helped organize the film contest. She said it’s a first-time partnership between the Arizona nonprofit and the Sonoran Cultural Institute. They teamed up to highlight stories important on both sides of the border.
Seven of those stories were chosen as finalists and shown at film screening in Douglas.
“And they were all different. There was documentary. There was experimental. There were stories about violence and stories about loss. And stories about brainwashing, being brainwashed, like satire in there," she said. "Our community is so, there’s this complexity, and I’m really not surprised that it showed up today in these films.”
Tanya Núñez made one of the films.
“I got into film because of the power it has to send messages and also the power to open minds and perspectives," she said.
Nunez lives in Tucson but came back to her hometown in Douglas-Agua Prieta for the screening. Her film "Dios Nunca Muere," or "God Never Dies," is about an undocumented woman living in Tucson.
And her next project?
“A documentary here in Douglas about border life," Núñez said. "Coming from the border, it’s very unique. I lived between both communities, and I want to expose that reality that people are surviving and there’s a community between two countries here."
Enthusiasm for Cine En La Frontera and the film workshops shows there’s hunger for this kind of storytelling in border communities, Sanchez said.
"There was an enormous turnout for the filmmaking workshops," she said. “We learned that our community is interested in filmmaking and telling their stories”
Back in Agua Prieta, more than 70 participants clapped and cheered as Davis wrapped up the Saturday workshop.
Student Héctor Olguín says it’s the first opportunity he’s had to learn filmmaking skills.
"There's not a lot of space for art and culture here," he said. "And it's part of us, part of our identity, and there should be more."
Because this community has many stories to tell.