FRONTERA! film series zooms in on the US-México border

Walls, fences, barbed wire, surveillance towers… Lines that separate countries establishing two sides, un aquí y un allá, norte y sur.


The border line that divides Mexico and the United States is almost 2,000 miles long. To the north of Baja California and Sonora is the United States, while to the south of New Mexico, Arizona and California is México. To the left bank of the Rio Grande, or Río Bravo as they call it in México, is Texas, United States, while to the right bank you have Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, which are México.

Ciudad Juárez, El Paso, Tijuana, San Diego, Mexicali, Calexico, Nogales, Yuma, Ojinaga, Brownsville… are all border towns that exist between the two countries, peculiar geographic areas with great contrasts, places where shady businesses and bizarre lifestyles abound, where hybrid realities coexist separated by a wall.

A no man’s land where anything goes.

The crossing of the border is an indelible image in the migrant’s collective consciousness as well as in that of those who got “crossed by the border.”

FRONTERA! is a series of narrative and documentary films that describe this dividing line in realistic and imaginary, serious and humorous ways, paying attention to both the ugly and the beautiful. The films cover topics such as migration, transborder culture, violence, maquilas, Aztlán, music, drug trafficking… They are films made here and there at different times in history.

Among the films selected for the series we are very proud to include a Chicano classic, Robert M. Young’s Alambrista!, about the difficulties suffered by a farm worker who migrates from Michoacán to the United States to support his family after the birth of his son. The film was awarded at the 1978 Cannes and San Sebastian film festivals.

Jonás Cuarón’s brutal Desierto (2016) is a heartbreaking story starring Gael García Bernal that follows a group of immigrants crossing the desert to enter the United States as a crazy vigilante hunts them like animals, turning their journey into a ruthless struggle to survive.

We will also show Les Blank’s legendary 1976 documentary Chulas fronteras, featuring Los Alegres De Terán, Flaco Jiménez and Lydia Mendoza, Tex-Mex cross-border music artists protesting oppression and racism with their beautiful music. A true gem.

Also a classic, despite being much more recent and already a cult film, is Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008), a fascinating, humane and very clever science fiction story about a young man working in an infomaquila near the border. His nervous system is connected to an electronic network, controlling robot-workers that operate in the United States.

Norteado (2009), presented in San Francisco almost ten years ago at the San Francisco International Film Festival, is Rigoberto Perezcano’s endearing first feature. Made with great heart, craft and sense of humor it follows the various failed attempts of a young Oaxacan attempting to cross the wall in Tijuana. It’s an excellent movie that deserves being revisited and seen by larger audiences.

Al otro lado (2005), is the first feature made by talented Michoacán director Natalia Almada, awarded last month with the Golden gate Award for her first narrative film Everything Else at the San Francisco International Film Festival, is the vibrant portrait of a young corrido music composer who must choose between drug dealing or jumping the fence to the US.

Meanwhile, Yolanda Pividal’s beautiful Of Kites and Borders (2014) tells four vivid stories of children living and working in Tijuana. Heartbreaking and full of hope, this skillfully crafted documentary reflects on the daily conquest of the right to be a child on the border. Certainly not to be missed.

Gustavo Vazquez’s Chicano satire The Great Mojado Invasion II (1999) is a fun and caustic 26-minute film made with the participation of Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Hordes of wetbacks conquer the Mexican territory lost to the USA, imposing their culture over the Anglo-Saxon’s and establishing the new Aztlán.

And we decided to include some humor in such a serious topic as that of the border. Cheech Marin’s hilarious Born in East LA (1987), about a live-with-mom middle-aged pocho from LA who gets deported to Tijuana and cannot return without his ID, and Cantinflas’ memorable border-crossing scene in 1968’s Por mis pistolas that will be screened before the shows.

Special guests, q&a sessions and other added attractions make of FRONTERA! an unforgettable series for film lovers and inquisitive minds. Films to laugh and cry, to entertain and illuminate.

FRONTERA! film series — Roxie Theater, San Francisco

Sunday, May 28, 6:00 p.m.
Desierto (Jonás Cuarón, México/Francia, 2015)

Saturday, June 17, 5:00 p.m.
Norteado [Northless] (Rigoberto Pérezcano, México/España, 2009)

Tuesday, June 27, 7:00 p.m.
Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, USA/México, 2008)
The Great Mojado Invasion (Gustavo Vazquez/Guillermo Gomez-Peña, USA, 1999)

Saturday, July 15, 5:00 p.m.
De cometas y fronteras [Of Kites and Borders] (Yolanda Pividal, USA/México/España, 2014)

Sunday, July 30, 4:30 p.m.
Alambrista! (Robert M. Young, USA, 1977)

Friday, August 18, 9:15 p.m.
Born in East LA (Cheech Marin, USA, 1987)

Saturday, August 26, 6:00 & 8:00 p.m.
Al otro lado [To the Other Side] (Natalia Almada, México/USA, 2005)
Chulas Fronteras (Les Blank, USA, 1976)

For more information and tickets, visit

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