Femme Frontera: Centering Films by Women from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

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By Carly Dennis

Femme Frontera is an organization based in El Paso, Texas that focuses on filmmaking by women on the U.S.-Mexico border. The project began when Angie Reza Tures completed her most recent film, Memory Box, and decided to reach out to fellow filmmakers of the region to put together a group showing. Through this process, Tures, Ilana Lapid (La Catrina), Iliana Sosa (Child of the Desert), Jazmin Harvey (Overland), Jennifer Lucero (The Appleseed Project), and Laura Theresa Bustillos Jáquez (Undocumented Freedom) came together from El Paso, Juarez, and Las Cruces to form the collective Femme Frontera. Their initial showcase took place at El Paso’s Alamo Drafthouse in August 2016 and was wildly successful. Femme Frontera grew from that first screening into a travelling filmmaker showcase seen around the U.S. at venues such as Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles, California and Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, South Carolina. The project has now expanded to encompass filmmaking workshops for youth in El Paso, and a second annual manifestation of the showcase coming up this September.

The filmmakers of Femme Frontera have described their collective as meeting two different needs. One, it confronts the industry barriers for women of color filmmakers (barriers which #OscarsSoWhite helped draw more attention to, and which studies such as UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies’ “2017 Hollywood Diversity Report” have quantified) by creating an alternative platform to share their work. Second, it stems from the communicative potentials of their narratives—as familiar and affirming, or new and informing, depending on the viewer’s social-geographical location. In our political moment, they note, there are many questions about “the border,” and a great deal of misinformation. As people from the place in question, Femme Frontera’s filmmakers offer an illuminating lens to parts of the public who are unfamiliar with the region.

But they acknowledge that beyond that historically specific cause, there will always be a need for stories of the border, for those who live there—all people should get to see their own stories and communities represented, and all artists should have the chance to make their art. Ultimately, Femme Frontera is about well-told and powerful films—films about a unique region too often misrepresented or ignored by the mainstream. The collective helps films get seen, and creates networks and resources that expand opportunities for more border films to be made by border community members.

At the recent Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase screening at Southwestern University, we spoke with Tures, Lucero, and Sosa, discussing their films, filmmaking processes, careers, and the future plans of their collective.

From Left to Right: Iliana Sosa, Angie Reza Tures, and Jennifer Lucero

From Left to Right: Iliana Sosa, Angie Reza Tures, and Jennifer Lucero

Will each of you give us a little background on yourself and your work?

Jennifer Lucero: Well, my name is Jennifer Lucero and my film is The Appleseed Project. I focused on female musicians who grew up in the border region – New Mexico, Juarez, and El Paso. As for my background, I graduated from UTEP with a degree in electronic media journalism. I also minored in women’s studies. My mission in college was to learn how to provide a platform for people who didn’t really have a voice. Since then, I’m always doing freelance work. I did a documentary called Catching Babies focusing on midwives on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trying to show what birth on the border is like, and portray it in a positive manner. So that’s kind of where my background is—doing positive, uplifting work, and just exposing the amazing stories of people who live in the region.

Angie Reza Tures: My name is Angie Reza Tures and I’m a filmmaker and youth media educator, as well as the director of Femme Frontera. My background is in film production. I lived in San Francisco for twelve years, working primarily in documentary film. I worked producing, directing, editing, and any other sort of job I could find in between to gain experience. I moved back to my hometown of El Paso five years ago and started teaching documentary filmmaking. Then from there I started the Femme Frontera showcase with five other amazing filmmakers. It started as a one-time showcase but has evolved into an annual event and organization that will be working full-time, year-round.

Iliana Sosa: I’m Iliana Sosa. I grew up in El Paso but have been in Austin for about two years. Before that I lived in L.A. where I went to film school at UCLA. After graduating I stayed in L.A. for a while working on reality doc TV. I’m glad I left that field because it’s an awful world—just soul-sucking. So while there I was also trying to work on my own projects. I worked with Josefina López on a play she wrote and I directed her feature, Detained in the Desert. Since then I’ve done short stuff. I’m now trying to do work on this feature documentary called Julian that’s about my grandfather who worked as a bracero during the ’50s and ’60s when that program was still active. He’s 87 years old now, so I need to get that going! He takes a bus from Durango, where my mother’s from, and then he goes to El Paso, and then Albuquerque. And he does this every month and he’s done it for the past fifteen years, so I’ve been following that journey with him.

In one of the interviews about Femme Frontera, Angie, you talked about the idea of “radical hope” as a current throughout the six films in the showcase. Can you expand on what that term means for you and for the collective’s work?

Tures: “Radical hope” was actually inspired by an essay written by Junot Díaz right after the election. He was describing how we have to have hope no matter what. It’s a good driving force for what it is that we’re trying to do. For Femme Frontera, the radical hope is in sharing these stories, and redefining the narrative that is falsely being perpetuated right now within our media, which is defining us as rapists and criminals coming across the border. We can revise the narrative simply by telling the truth—by showing people that isn’t who we are, that’s not what this region stands for, that’s not who we are as a community.

And Iliana, you mentioned encountering an increased openness to discussing immigration since Trump’s rise to power. That’s despite the fact that there already wasn’t justice or safety for immigrants even before him. And how despite steps like DACA, Obama is acknowledged by a lot of communities to be a deporter-in-chief. Do you encounter the new openness that you talked about across the board, or do you perceive it more in particular spaces, whether it’s border communities, non-border communities, or in the media? Do you think the increased vocalness comes from the more overt criminalizing rhetoric and policies, or from some other source?

Sosa: Yeah, that’s a good question. When I spoke about that I was referring to how certain spaces that typically didn’t include narratives about women of color, or border communities, are now wanting those stories. I’m thinking more so in the media—specifically white liberal spaces that are now suddenly interested in people of color narratives, whether that includes something like grants, or let’s say, a magazine like Variety. A couple of years ago I don’t think that Variety would’ve picked up Femme Frontera, just to be honest.  Now post-Trump more people suddenly want to hear those stories, and there’s a need for that because there’s also this surge of criminalization. It’s like everything is out in the open. But it also allows us as filmmakers to, in a sense, take ownership of those stories. Especially in an industry that is predominantly white and male. It’s fertile ground for us as people of color to take ownership of our stories and not have people with more privilege tell them.

Tures: Just to add one more thing to that. We’ve had a few screenings now and what I’m noticing with some of the Q&As afterwards is that the questions posed have more to do with being women and minorities, rather than the films themselves. So then you begin to think, “Am I a trending topic?” Which is really sad, because the point of our organization is to celebrate filmmakers—to give ourselves the opportunity to show our work, rather than constantly being asked what it is about being women, or what it is about being brown, that has made it possible for us to get something like that on screen. We’re not given an opportunity in many other film festivals—especially in Hollywood. Now we’ve created that opportunity and it’s extremely important for us to be able to go out in front of an audience and show our work and have it recognized. Sometimes it’s in very subtle ways—people don’t usually come right out and ask that, but it’s very apparent. You feel like the point is being missed.

Clockwise from left: Overland, Memory Box, Undocumented Freedom, The Appleseed Project, La Catrina, Child of the Desert

Clockwise from left: Overland, Memory Box, Undocumented Freedom, The Appleseed Project, La Catrina, Child of the Desert

Can you each describe your filmmaking process for us?

Lucero: With my project I tried to think about what kinds of stories I wasn’t seeing, or hearing. I’m a musician, and I started noticing whenever I was jamming out that I was the only girl, or there was just one other girl. I know lots of women who play music but I wasn’t seeing them around, jamming out or playing shows. So that’s when I started to think that maybe I could write a grant so I could record their stories. It was such a blessing to be able to find the women I featured—to watch and record a performance multiple times, to be able to talk with them and get their perspectives. But there were also challenges. I had to be thinking creatively as well as technically. I had to keep sound in mind especially, to make sure to capture their music. I wanted to use spaces that spoke to the musicians, so there were logistical challenges to work out for those unorthodox settings. It’s been a learning process. That’s the filmmaking process for me—it’s learning and really getting into their stories. I was a one-woman crew, so I was wearing so many different hats in that process.

That’s a lot to take on at once.

Lucero: Yeah, I think the purpose is to find the subject and become so obsessed with it, really. That’s when all the good questions come, and that’s when the subject feels that you care. Because if they don’t think that you care, or they don’t think that you’re in it for them, they won’t open up.

Sosa: This filmmaking process wasn’t just me. My family helped a lot and the people on my team were amazing. I made this film in 2012 as my thesis film at UCLA. I always had the intention of shooting in El Paso and going back. At the time Afghanistan was still a relevant topic—now it’s, depending on who you ask, kind of outdated. The process to come up with that story arose in different ways, with different personal influences. While I was at UCLA, equipment was included in our tuition, so I remember driving with a Red One in the trunk of my car from L.A. to El Paso to shoot. The Red One, if you know, it’s a huge camera. My DP, Judy Phu, was also at UCLA with me. She did all of that work handheld—this tiny Asian woman. To see her doing that, not being afraid and just pulling her weight—it was really amazing and inspiring. It was a really low-budget film where a lot of the locations were really cheap—I shot in my parents’ house, and at a hotel in Mesilla where they just charged us for one night. Originally my intention with the story was to cast a Latina mother. I was casting out of L.A. working with a casting agent that worked with UCLA students, and I couldn’t find a mother in her late 40s. I ended up casting Dale Dickey so it’s changed the story a bit as a white mother, but it’s still relevant because on the border we have a big Fort Bliss community. I get asked why I didn’t cast a Latina woman a lot and it was originally my intention, but I just couldn’t find the right person. I wanted someone to be really good, and Dale fortunately was available. I saw Winter’s Bone and I thought, “This woman is amazing.” I love her look. I love that she’s rough. I love that she’s masculine, that she has this brokenness about her. You see it in her face—she’s gone through hell and back, and that’s what I wanted. It was just amazing working with an actor who knows that process and knows what acting means. So for me as a first time director—it was a real gift.

Tures: One of the things that I love the most about filmmaking is that from project to project you can make it more challenging. I feel like every time you make a film you’re constantly trying to outdo the last one that you made. For me it’s like a self-competitive process, and it’s extremely fun. I had just moved back to El Paso when I started shooting Memory Box, and I brought my DP, my cinematographer, from San Francisco who I’d been working with for years. Everyone else I hired local, and it was the first time that I had heard of them and met them. Family and friends were also vital to helping this thing get off the ground. Everywhere that we shot was in local places. As you go you start getting to network, and seeing what works, and seeing what doesn’t. It’s an evolving process. It’s what makes it extremely exciting, and sometimes you fall really hard. I’ve worked on projects that took years and years, and I felt they were so bad that I didn’t want to show them to anybody. Then there was one project I did over the weekend where I must have spent about three hours with my own camera editing, shooting, throwing it together, and it won an award!

Tures: One of the things that I love the most about filmmaking is that from project to project you can make it more challenging. I feel like every time you make a film you’re constantly trying to outdo the last one that you made. For me it’s like a self-competitive process, and it’s extremely fun. I had just moved back to El Paso when I started shooting Memory Box, and I brought my DP, my cinematographer, from San Francisco who I’d been working with for years. Everyone else I hired local, and it was the first time that I had heard of them and met them. Family and friends were also vital to helping this thing get off the ground. Everywhere that we shot was in local places. As you go you start getting to network, and seeing what works, and seeing what doesn’t. It’s an evolving process. It’s what makes it extremely exciting, and sometimes you fall really hard. I’ve worked on projects that took years and years, and I felt they were so bad that I didn’t want to show them to anybody. Then there was one project I did over the weekend where I must have spent about three hours with my own camera editing, shooting, throwing it together, and it won an award!

What was the initial spark for the films that you’re each showcasing tonight?

Can you each describe your filmmaking process for us?

Lucero: With my project I tried to think about what kinds of stories I wasn’t seeing, or hearing. I’m a musician, and I started noticing whenever I was jamming out that I was the only girl, or there was just one other girl. I know lots of women who play music but I wasn’t seeing them around, jamming out or playing shows. So that’s when I started to think that maybe I could write a grant so I could record their stories. It was such a blessing to be able to find the women I featured—to watch and record a performance multiple times, to be able to talk with them and get their perspectives. But there were also challenges. I had to be thinking creatively as well as technically. I had to keep sound in mind especially, to make sure to capture their music. I wanted to use spaces that spoke to the musicians, so there were logistical challenges to work out for those unorthodox settings. It’s been a learning process. That’s the filmmaking process for me—it’s learning and really getting into their stories. I was a one-woman crew, so I was wearing so many different hats in that process.

That’s a lot to take on at once.

Lucero: Yeah, I think the purpose is to find the subject and become so obsessed with it, really. That’s when all the good questions come, and that’s when the subject feels that you care. Because if they don’t think that you care, or they don’t think that you’re in it for them, they won’t open up.

Sosa: This filmmaking process wasn’t just me. My family helped a lot and the people on my team were amazing. I made this film in 2012 as my thesis film at UCLA. I always had the intention of shooting in El Paso and going back. At the time Afghanistan was still a relevant topic—now it’s, depending on who you ask, kind of outdated. The process to come up with that story arose in different ways, with different personal influences. While I was at UCLA, equipment was included in our tuition, so I remember driving with a Red One in the trunk of my car from L.A. to El Paso to shoot. The Red One, if you know, it’s a huge camera. My DP, Judy Phu, was also at UCLA with me. She did all of that work handheld—this tiny Asian woman. To see her doing that, not being afraid and just pulling her weight—it was really amazing and inspiring. It was a really low-budget film where a lot of the locations were really cheap—I shot in my parents’ house, and at a hotel in Mesilla where they just charged us for one night. Originally my intention with the story was to cast a Latina mother. I was casting out of L.A. working with a casting agent that worked with UCLA students, and I couldn’t find a mother in her late 40s. I ended up casting Dale Dickey so it’s changed the story a bit as a white mother, but it’s still relevant because on the border we have a big Fort Bliss community. I get asked why I didn’t cast a Latina woman a lot and it was originally my intention, but I just couldn’t find the right person. I wanted someone to be really good, and Dale fortunately was available. I saw Winter’s Bone and I thought, “This woman is amazing.” I love her look. I love that she’s rough. I love that she’s masculine, that she has this brokenness about her. You see it in her face—she’s gone through hell and back, and that’s what I wanted. It was just amazing working with an actor who knows that process and knows what acting means. So for me as a first time director—it was a real gift.

Tures: One of the things that I love the most about filmmaking is that from project to project you can make it more challenging. I feel like every time you make a film you’re constantly trying to outdo the last one that you made. For me it’s like a self-competitive process, and it’s extremely fun. I had just moved back to El Paso when I started shooting Memory Box, and I brought my DP, my cinematographer, from San Francisco who I’d been working with for years. Everyone else I hired local, and it was the first time that I had heard of them and met them. Family and friends were also vital to helping this thing get off the ground. Everywhere that we shot was in local places. As you go you start getting to network, and seeing what works, and seeing what doesn’t. It’s an evolving process. It’s what makes it extremely exciting, and sometimes you fall really hard. I’ve worked on projects that took years and years, and I felt they were so bad that I didn’t want to show them to anybody. Then there was one project I did over the weekend where I must have spent about three hours with my own camera editing, shooting, throwing it together, and it won an award!

Memory Box

Memory Box

What was the initial spark for the films that you’re each showcasing tonight?

Tures: Well, for me, I’d been writing a feature script for a while and I wasn’t feeling good about it, so I put it down for a while. Then we had a family tragedy strike where my uncle passed very suddenly. He was only 59 years old, and it hit all of us really hard. My family likes to celebrate Day of the Dead by creating our own altars, so we created an altar in his honor. The feeling was kind of light, because he was always so funny, and we started joking about what he’d be doing with the items on his table. The experience to me felt like it could be a movie idea. I started writing, just to play around a little, but it actually became a really cathartic experience. It helped me deal a lot with the grief and the thought of death.

Lucero: What really sparked my film was my own story about music—about how I acquired my accordion. I was just going to lunch and this little man started talking to me, and by the end of the afternoon, he’s giving me his accordion. He was very elderly and was moving away, so he had to get rid of it. It was a magical conversation. I returned eight years later on a follow up film project to the apartments where the man gave it to me. He still had two suitcases there that he’d left with his belongings and his music.  So I did the video about my story, how I started to learn, and how I used music to get through hard times, and I became very empowered. I had never thought about it before, and then when someone just gives you that opportunity to make music, you’re like, “Oh, I have to face fear now: my fear of failure”—and what do all these other women go through? And they’re way better—they’re professionals! I thought, wow, the fear and doubt that I go through, I would love to… not hear it from them, but see what their process was like. I heard so many good stories of them fighting through so much trial and tribulation, but musically almost.

Sosa: I wanted to make a film where we could talk about immigration, but not in such a heavy-handed way. To show that we can connect with people despite what they speak, how they look, and who they are. That was really where the seed for this story came from. Also, I’ve been in an interracial relationship for many years. My partner is from Missouri, you know, white as can be. [Laughter] So I always thought seeing that kind of connection onscreen—from someone who is white and meeting someone who’s undocumented, and what that, even if it’s a small connection—what that might look like. In the story the mother sees something in the young man who’s undocumented, and she’s very lonely, and he is too. Finding that connection—what does that mean, and what does it look like? I think more so now, it’s what we need. Sometimes we’re so afraid of someone that doesn’t look like us that we’re afraid to even talk to them, or ask them what their name is. So I think that breaking down those barriers and making ourselves uncomfortable is ok. I think if we gave ourselves opportunities to meet people who are totally different from us then we might be in a better place now than we are as a country, honestly… [laughter] But we’ll see what happens.

Child of the Desert

Child of the Desert

How do you feel the medium of film connects to border spaces and stories, or what do you think it offers for communicating about border spaces, and the people and stories there?

Lucero: I mean, the visual opportunity is so powerful, right—that people who’ve never been here can actually see. That’s, I think, the most powerful thing. You know, I hate TV shows and movies that show the border. Me and Mercy watched The Bridge with her dad. (She’s one of the young ladies in the project—in Appleseed.) And she and I were like, “What is this?!” Seriously. Even the cop, who’s the main character, we’re just like, “That is NOT how El Paso cops are.” [Laughter] But it’s not, you know? So I think the fact that we have the power of audio and video is important to question those other representations. And people are getting that in their pocket now, with phones. They can get their story, and not have someone else tell it. The news—even our own news—screws up the story, and victimizes and criminalizes our own people in the way they portray us. So I feel by taking the power back and using our mediums, it’s a powerful thing to say, “No, actually look—this is it. This is the real deal right here. This is the real situation.”

Tures: I like what she said. [Laughter] Do you have anything to add?

Sosa: Yeah I think you’re spot-on, Jen. I mean, in a way I like that film is such an open-ended medium. You can do really whatever you want with it. I think that reflects the complexity of the border. I think that whether you want to make an experimental film, or animation, it’s just such a vast medium. I think that’s what’s awesome about this—about Femme Frontera—that it’s showing those stories that rarely do get out. Like Angie was saying earlier, there are film festivals and other avenues that serve as platforms for filmmakers to show their work, but as we all know, the selection process for that can be crazy. So, of course there are so many untold stories, and what a great way, like Angie was saying—that we can show them, right? I think when people think of the border, they think of a certain image, which is usually really distorted. When they think of Texas, the border is not one of the things that comes to mind—you think of, I don’t know, cowboy hats and rodeos. And the border, la frontera, is so different from that. When you go to the airport, you step into El Paso and you hear Spanish all around, and it’s a totally different space. I don’t think that’s really represented much, and just how complex it is.

Tures: To add onto that complexity—I think that’s a really great point—films are also personal. I mean, unless it’s investigative journalism, which I think is the closest film comes to becoming objective, I think that films as a whole do come from a very personal place, because it’s coming from your eyes. The way that you’re telling the story is the way you have chosen to tell it, and that same story can be told a million different ways. Hopefully you’re being responsible about it by doing it accurately and honestly. But, you know, that being said, I think part of the beauty of it, at least with the showcase, is that you are watching six different perspectives on the same thing. That for me is empowering just by itself.

Lucero: I think it really excited people to see our films—to recognize faces—people were recognizing their brothers and sisters and friends and family.

Tures: For Latinos to see themselves represented. To see another brown face on the screen, you know, it’s…

Lucero: Encouraging! It’s, I don’t know, it’s encouraging to see places I know being in a movie scene. I’m like, “They’re representing the life I know.”

On the Femme Frontera website you talk about changing public perceptions about the border region being a central goal of the collective. And mainstream media so often codes the border region as dangerous and violent, and never seems to acknowledge the violence coming from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. So, what realities of the region are you hoping to bring forward, and what’s one way that you’d describe the U.S.-Mexico border today?

Tures: I think that’s a really great question. I think that putting so much emphasis on narratives that advance notions of Mexicans as being immigrants, and Mexicans as being fresh over the border, and Mexicans as being impoverished can be harmful. There’s a limited way in which we’re being discussed, and that has a real impact.  When I lived in the Bay Area, people were surprised that I didn’t have an accent and that I’m a U.S. citizen. I met a woman who refused to speak to me in English, whereas she refused to speak to my husband in Spanish, because he’s Caucasian. And she began to press me on questions about “how hard it must have been for my dad to have to worked in the fields.” My dad has never worked in a field in his life. He’s also a U.S. citizen, very heavily accented, and he grew up partly in Juarez. But I think that there’s that danger in only sharing particular kinds of stories. One of my goals for my film, Memory Box, was to tell an ordinary American style story with a cast that was all Latino, in a place that’s all Latino, with cultural elements, but introducing them in ways that show we have dual identities here. I think that as important as it is—and, I want to say that up front—as important as it is for people to hear stories about how difficult it has been for immigrants—it’s equally important to share stories where that’s not the case.

The Appleseed Project

The Appleseed Project

Lucero: You explained that really well. Sometimes people are shocked because they don’t know the history: “Wait, your family’s been here for four generations? What?” Sometimes people automatically assume your parents are from Mexico, and my typical response has been, “Well... actually they were in Mexico, but then they drew a line, you know? [Laughter] And then they weren’t. So it wasn’t really our choice, was it?” But you see, I didn’t realize that until I was 28 or 29, when I started to actually take in the history. Growing up in Cleveland—I grew up in Cleveland, but I was born in El Paso—there were a lot of times when people approached me with questions like, “Why are you brown?” or “What’s your last name mean?” You constantly face questions and assumptions about where you’re from, what you do, where your dad’s from and so on. My response was, “Wow, what if I’m just like you and I just have brown skin? And the difference is that my great grandmother only spoke Spanish, ok?” I’m not saying that was a good or bad thing, just that you can’t assume someone’s background solely on the color of their skin and their last name. You can’t put anyone in a box. People would ask me, “Why are your sister and brother güero and you’re so brown?” And I had to remind them, “Because Spanish people are from Europe and indigenous people are from Mexico—they had sex and made brown and white babies, hello?! Do I have to explain that?” [Laughter] People would say to my mother, “What did the milkman look like?” As a little girl, I didn’t understand and would ask, “What does the milkman have to do with anything?” At the time she was a young woman in Cleveland, Ohio and she would face questions like, “Why do you have a brown little girl and two güeros?” And she just didn’t have enough information to respond, “F– you. What are you saying to me, and it’s none of your business.” The narratives of Femme Frontera this year are pretty diverse—but we’re also showing the regular life, what we grew up with, what we’re used to. It’s ok to say English and Spanish words in the same sentence—that’s ok to us. It’s ok to be bilingual—that actually makes you more intelligent, not less. Our grandparents were told to not speak Spanish, “Or you’re gonna be looked at as a stupid Mexican. Do not speak Spanish.” They would hit my grandmother if she spoke Spanish. Then, oh, 50 to 70 years later, people say, “Tsk, why don’t you know Spanish?” What did they expect? Because my grandparents suppressed it or they would be punished. But I couldn’t explain that at age 18. My response would typically be, “Oh, I was bad in Spanish class?” I didn’t realize that it was an absolute oppression, being forced to assimilate, to reject their culture. But you know, explain that to my grandma. I think a lot of our stories are coming out of that.

Sosa: Maybe I’ll answer, “How would you describe the U.S.-Mexico border today?” Covering both Jen’s and Angie’s points, it’s almost like a clash of cultures. There’s this quote from Gloria Anzaldúa and she says of the border, “It’s the third world that grates against the first and bleeds.” I like that quote a lot, but I also think, like Angie was saying, it shows a certain of side of the border. People in the mainstream think of it as a space of perpetual violence and drug wars. But it’s important to note that it’s a place that serves as fertile ground for people from very different backgrounds to live. They may live as cultural and physical border crossers—we all experience that there. We all kind of know how to navigate between these different worlds. For example, there are a lot of people who are students that live in Juarez, but study at UTEP, and they cross that bridge every day, physically. The border today is a place inhabited by border crossers who are doing cool things that a lot of people elsewhere don’t know about, and it’s more than just the drug war, more than just…the wall. (And there is a wall there already—we all grew up seeing that.) It’s a place where things clash, and there’s an interesting fusion that happens as a result.

Audience at Femme Frontera Screening

Audience at Femme Frontera Screening

I’m hoping you can speak to this, not in the theoretical sense, but in a very pragmatic sense. I think the conditions are ripe for the kind of project you’re building. How do you envision Femme Frontera developing as you move forward? What are you hoping to build from here and how do you hope to sustain that movement where you’re not a trending topic but a sustained convergence of diverse perspectives?

Turns: That’s a fantastic question and it’s one that we’re still asking each other. We want to involve as many other communities as we can—around the nation, and maybe eventually around the world. So we’re not only engaging U.S.-Mexico borders. Now we’re engaging Palestine and Israel border relation stories, and everywhere else in between. Hopefully that is what will continue making it relevant—that it’s not limited to our region, but rather so many people have stories to tell, talking about border experiences in different ways.

Sosa: I think you should also mention the workshops, because teaching is such an important component.

Tures: For sure. There are different elements of what we want to do beyond the showcase. We are going to be teaching a variety of workshops this summer—to youth, on documentary filmmaking. We’re hoping to expand that to adult classes as well. We’re teaching this sort of filmmaking all on smart devices, so either smart phones or tablets—getting people to use the tools that they already have to share whatever it is that they want to share. They’ll have the opportunity to then either share those stories through our collective, or in whatever manner they want. We all specialize in certain types of filmmaking, so each of us will be focusing on our areas of expertise. We also plan to host monthly mentor meetings for women filmmakers in the community, who want to meet and discuss the next projects that they have, share resources, and build each other up. We’re also looking to do another showcase that brings together local authors and local filmmakers. And that would involve everybody and anybody whether it’s a woman, man, or non-binary person. We’d like to bring the whole community together to do these kinds of projects. Our goal, just like with our films, is to challenge ourselves as mentors and as community leaders.

Sosa: I think what’s exciting about what you just said is that, from my experience, a lot of people in border communities don’t see filmmaking as a path or career—especially women. So I think giving people those tools and teaching each other how to make films is really empowering. Despite the greater access to technology, filmmaking is still a profession that’s marked by class and racial privilege. To make a film takes money and time; not everyone has those. And just in the film industry in general… you still don’t immediately think of women of color as filmmakers. Changing that narrative is so important. If we don’t see ourselves as filmmakers, then no one else is going to. So owning that title, “Yes, I direct films—you know, I happen to be a woman, a woman of color, I’m brown, and I’m a director.” Taking ownership of that title and passing it on, I think is essential.

Submissions by women from the U.S.-Mexico border region to the 2nd Annual Femme Frontera Showcase will be accepted on the collective’s website for the next several months.

The showcase will take place in El Paso on September 23, 2017. Get ready!