Bordertown premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival last week. A film that is trying to raise awareness and raise activism, but all it raised in Berlin was boos.
How dare they boo?
It doesn't matter if you don't like J Lo.
According to Amnesty International, more than 400 women in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico have been murdered since 1993. Women are dying and disappearing daily, and action needs to be taken. Reviewer Kirk Honeycutt writes, "It wants to be a thriller, a piece of investigative journalism, a political soapbox and a vehicle for Jennifer Lopez. It serves none of these masters well."
The movie is a thriller because it intends to scare. The message is terrifying. Young women are working long hours in American owned factories, called maquiladoras, on the border of the United States and Mexico, and are driven home at night through dark roads by bus drivers hired by the maquiladoras. No background checks are done on the bus drivers; no security is provided for these young women; no self-defense classes offered. Mothers live with the fear that their daughters might not make it home at the end of the day.
Jennifer Lopez doesn't save the day. Why? Because the issue isn't solved. This isn't just a movie; it's real life. The murders of Ciudad Juarez are a serious problem, and Bordertown hopes to raise awareness of them. But if the fans boo, if it is ripped to pieces before it is even given a chance, we have lost this round of the battle before it has even begun.
I am a member of Amnesty International, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see a screening of Bordertown before it headed to Berlin. Bordertown might have the capacity to inspire real change in the world -- that is, as long as people aren't put off of watching it by the booing. The facts are correct. The girls are very real. There are people working to expose the truth and search for justice, but not enough.
Criticism such as booing is detrimental to the cause.
Nobody booed Hotel Rwanda because they thought that it failed to be a good vehicle for Don Cheadle.
Here's a problem with the booing: it's hard to boo the movie without booing the cause. The reason I care about the movie is because the very real problem with the murders in Juarez is that people don't care. The boos might just be about art, but their impact is felt on the cause. This movie is a way to reach people, to get them to care about the cause.
If you boo the movie, fewer people see it. That means fewer people who have the opportunity to have their eyes opened, however inartfully, to the issue.
I don't think that this is a bad movie. But I also think that a different standard needs to be used in judging movies whose purpose is political change. Standards of politics as well as art should determine the lens through which we view those movies. Also significant is something that both the audience in Berlin and Kirk Honeycutt appear to be missing. Bordertown is not a big studio, big money film. It was able to recruit the stars it has (Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas, Martin Sheen) not through promising paychecks but through the cause. The actors took on the movie because they felt passionate about the cause, and, in an ironic twist, the movie is now being criticized for having such big names associated with it. Bordertown is being treated as a big studio film that is using and exploiting the murders in Juarez for profit, when really, it is anything but. In truth, it is a political movie that was made without a big studio backing it for the sake of getting a message out to the world.
So don't listen to the boos in Berlin. Judge for yourself. It's a better movie than that--and a more important one. And I think it's a great vehicle for J Lo.