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Bordertown (2006)
important issue, bad movie
15 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
(SPOILERS in the last part of this review)

How does one slam a movie with a good conscience if he thinks the movies' topic is very important? And yet there is not other chance than to criticize the filmmakers for the poor work they've done. That is 'Bordertown'.

At the Berlin film festival - where 'Bordertown' premiered - director Greg Nava (who also wrote the script), co-producer Barbara Martinez and Jennifer Lopez (who also produced) left no doubt how important the movie is to them. A website that accompanies the movie is supposed to raise money for the people in Juarez, special screenings should do the same. Plus they hope that 'Bordertown' will bring attention to the killings of so many women at the border between Mexico and the USA. And maybe this attention will help preventing more murders and maybe even help solving some cases. After all, according to Nava 400 dead bodies were found throughout the years, 3 alone in the last 14 days. 4000 women are still missing.

And it's not just that nobody cares for those women (they have no 'economical value', Nava said in the press conference, and it's true: They make 4 bucks a day, and even enough woman would be happy to take the jobs). Apparently there are people who didn't want the the film makers to touch the subject: Nava received death threats, an assistant who worked with the second unit in Juarez got beaten up by police (according to Martinez). Somebody broke into her hotel room, and when this "somebody" realized they are not going to stop filming he stole the cameras. Main part of the film were not shot in Juarez, but in more supportive Mexican towns and in factories who also were helpful. 'Bordertown' is a movie that deserves to be supported.

And still it is heart breaking how bad the movie is. It's not just bad, it's also at times pathetic and not very logical. Lopez plays a journalist Lauren who is sent to Juarez to write an article about the murders. She used to live in the area, she has a former lover Diaz (Banderas) there who runs a newspaper in Juarez. He is reluctant to help her, until a girl shows up - Eva (Maya Zapata) who got raped but survived because the guys who did it to her believed she was dead. Eva is able to identify the killers, but this puts her and Lauren in serious danger. Still Lauren continues her research...

(possible SPOILERS ahead:)

'Bordertown' is a Hollywood movie which is supposed to make money at ticket offices. Let's forgive the film makers that a lot of the movie consists of 'run and hide' action typical to these kind of thrillers. But it is simply stupid that Lauren eventually is considering to give up her career because of the tragic events. Nava should have made Lopez a pretty standard journalist, which would have made the movie way less pathetic. He also couldn't resist his urge to give Lauren a background which is pretty laughable. And some of the research work she is doing is just unbelievable.

(end of possible SPOILERS)

Obviously the movie was so important to Nava he failed in the end. A good journalist should never be too involved with the topic he is working on. A good filmmaker neither, it seems. Still: If this movies actually helps changing things in Juarez, if it makes same movie-goers research a bit more - thumbs up to 'Bordertown'. I personally would recommend reading about the killings though.
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This is what Hardcore/Punk is about - it's way more than music
22 July 2006
Punk Rock in Israel - this sounds like one of these columns in Maximum Rock'n'Roll we used to read back in the days. About a scene in a very small exotic country with lots of addresses at the very end to write to and to ask bands for a demo tape. A world wide scene was created that way - ask Jello Biafra about it. Nowadays nobody does that anymore. There are way too many local bands in your own city that don't amaze you. Who really wants to know how punk rock sounds in Kyrgyzystan or Gabun or another place you can't think of right now?

What we got here is a whole documentary about the Israeli scene - 'Jericho's Echo - Punk Rock in the Holy Title' is the title and it was done by the Jewish American Liz Nord in true DIY style. It is no surprise that Liz used to work for a punk rock label and for Maximum Rock'n'Roll, the mother of all scene reports. The movie is very thrilling, and interestingly this has nothing to do with the bands. The music is quite variable within the Hardcore & Punk genre. And the only one known outside Israel are Useless I.D. who toured the USA and within Europe and who are the Israeli version of the famous Fat Wreck sound. The other bands are totally unknown, very young and in their very early stages of finding their own sound. You find Streetpunk as well as Emo and even NY Hardcore (and the band that plays it is as much cliché as you'd expect). A lot of times this is nice and okay to listen to, but if the documentary would feature a list of all the contacts to the bands in true MRR style you wouldn't miss much if you'd don't write them. In a world with way too may bands most of them are just another band. And no new Fugazi, to say it this way.

But why is 'Jericho's Echo' a music documentary that is thrilling and a must-see anyhow? Because in our world punk and hardcore became just another style of music. A career choice, if you see how many Emo bands break the charts. It doesn't matter if we listen to the Dead Kennedys now and afterward to Bruce Springsteen. It's just music we consume. In Israel choosing to be a punk has massive consequences - Judaism doesn't like tattoos for example, and if you decide to be a Peace Punk and don't want to join the army you might end up with the label "psychopath" printed into your I.D.

So how do punks as a not so beloved minority think in a country which is even less popular in its region? What is their perspective on society, on the conflict with the Palestinians? The great thing is that the movie doesn't use clichés. As an outsider you'd like to hear how the whole conflict started, but Palestinians and Israelis are like chicken and egg. The movie doesn't want to take sides, Liz just listened to what people said. And so we find calls for peace and coexistence as much as people who prefer an Israeli dominance. At the same time everybody has to deal with fear and the loss of friends who got killed by suicide bombers. The statements Liz filmed are truly authentic and deep from the heart. And they show what Hardcore is all about - that it's more than music. And this movie is more than just (a) music (documentary) too.

And now got out and watch this!
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You won't miss anything if you miss this at the movie theater
23 October 2005
Why is it that every other Hollywood flick these days have to have an underlying political meaning? Even if it some family orientated movie like "The Legend of Zorro". Zorro, it appears, has to help California in the midst 19th Century becoming a member of the United States, so the suppressed poor Mexican peasants finally can enjoy the freedom America brings. While some terrorists try to prevent that no matter what. Terrorist who appear to be - but we leave that out until after you've seen the movie.

Martin Campbell sets his second "Zorro"-movie ten years after the the first one when Don Alejandro and Elena married. And as in most marriages things you loved so much about your partner start to stress you out. Why can't Zorro (Antonio Banderas) just stay with his wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones)? Doesn't he see that his son needs him as much as the poor people in the neighborhood? When Don Alejandro de la Vega prefers his job & career as Zorro one time to often to his wife and family, Elena finally files for divorce. And how handy it comes that there's this eloquent, attractive new kid in town - a french noble, Mrs de la Vega falls for. Or are things different than they appear?

"The Legend of Zorro" is a good example why movie theaters these days suffer from less and less ticket buyers. Campbells wants to have a wide target audience so bad - he created a humorous movie with notions of "Batman" as much as of James Bond and with a slight "DaVinci Code" feel in it. There's so many references to what people appeared to like in here you barely notice an uniqueness of this movie. Or is the none anyway? And yes, the movie is far away from being boring or not entertaining - but why watch this movie instead of any other blockbuster, you won't be able to tell.

It fits that, while Banderas and Zeta-Jones give very slick performances, the most memorable actors are kid (but don't let them confuse you: Adrian Alonso is not the new Marlon Brando) and a horse that likes to have a smoke and a wine every now and then.

A movie you want to see at home on DVD on a rainy autumn night, but you won't miss anything if you miss this at the cinema.
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