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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Only Here Podcast: The Cross-Border Film Scene Is Coming Into Focus

 September 23, 2019 at 10:40 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm worrying cabinet. Lots of filmmakers have been criticized for using the US Mexico border as a backdrop for stories about the drug war. It's become such a trope that narco fatigue is now a term locally, though some filmmakers are using the border to their advantage, making movies that have nothing to do with narcos. On the new episode of only here KPBS his original podcast featuring stories that could only come from a border town. We hear from filmmakers in San Diego and Tijuana who are using the border as a valuable resource instead of a lurid prop. Speaker 2: 00:40 Okay. [inaudible] Speaker 3: 00:48 Omar Lopez is shooting on an old 16 millimeter analog film camera. We're at a soccer field in a quiet neighborhood. If the Quanta called colonial [inaudible]. Speaker 2: 01:00 Is that your film camera? This one? Yeah. The 35 or do you want to know at 16 that's really cool. Where are you going to process and all that? It's just about photo Camp Burbank. Speaker 3: 01:13 Omar and his crew have shot a lot at this location using the nearby staircase hill and canyon as sets for their film, which takes place in a fantastical universe where only women exist. Omar is already done with the actors in the bigger shoots today. He and his stunt driver are out getting some bureau and other behind the scenes footage they need. [inaudible] Speaker 2: 01:36 we're going to take his bug and uh, do some shots over here on the hill and the canyon. Yeah. Beautiful red. I'll go over there. We're gonna go down the hill. Uh, and I'm going write on top of the, the hood of the car and then do some closeups like while it's driving down the hill and then down at the bottom of the canyon. I'm gonna drive behind him and uh, and get a shot at him driving through the neighborhood. [inaudible] Speaker 3: 02:05 the road they're filming is windy and peppered with houses that seem to be just barely clinging to the cliff. Speaker 2: 02:12 Okay. Speaker 3: 02:12 After Omar gets the first shot, we had to a convenience store at the bottom of the canyon so he can get the next shot. Speaker 2: 02:18 So this is the hood mount two a to put the camera. So like right on top of the hood. Uh, I'm going to follow him. He drives and get a shot of the car driving through the neighborhood. Speaker 3: 02:35 This is Omar's first ever feature length film and there was never any question about where he was going to shoot it. There's really no other place. He'd rather be making a movie than here in [inaudible]. Speaker 2: 02:47 It's a different way of life here, you know, it's not so many rules and restrictions and I think people are just a lot more willing to that sort of, you know, like let's, let's do something. Let's get this done. So to spirit Speaker 3: 03:01 spills out container thing else. Speaker 4: 03:04 Yes. Speaker 3: 03:12 Omar was a visual artist for years before he decided that making movies is what he wants to do. He grew up in San Diego, but both his parents are from Mexico. So growing up he spent a lot of time in D Quanta hanging out with his grandma. That's why he feels so at home here. When Omar did make that switch from art to film, he says he used the city of [inaudible] as the starting point for his first full length movie. He says the city and all its quirks and problems, tenacity and hidden beauty inspired the entire plot of his film. NT Kwana also allowed him to overcome financial and bureaucratic obstacles to back in our studio in San Diego. Omar explained just how big of a role of TJ has played in his movie. Speaker 5: 03:58 No Speaker 6: 03:59 shooting in TJ is a dream. Uh, especially for someone with, you know, no budget and no permits. It feels like a city and this is kind of like painting with a broad brush. Like it's mad. It's a magical city, but really people want to do things, if that makes sense. Like if they're game the game for stuff. So all the, all the time, you know, we're shooting in industry and we can't block off streets. We didn't pay for permits and things or so we have to wait for cars to be out of the way or people to be out of the way. And you, we want to be really polite about it cause we're showing up in just like suburban neighborhoods. You know, we're a small crew, but we're just really just showing up and you know, these people shouldn't have to, you know, move their whole lives for, for our shoot. Speaker 6: 04:45 And you know, sometimes we'll be standing there waiting like, all right, this one time we're waiting like five minutes longer because we couldn't get these people out of the back of a shot. And this woman who worked at a store right there was watching this and she came up and said, are you guys shooting the movie? Said, yeah. Says, well these people are in your way, Huh? Yeah, but you know, what do you, no, no, no, no. Hold on. Hey, I shooting a movie over here. You know why she went and she was like, are, you know, like our traffic control? And she had no Jen, nothing to get out of it. She never visited interested in it other than, you know, she saw someone trying to do something creative and, and said, you know, I think, you know, she was for it. Speaker 2: 05:37 [inaudible] Speaker 3: 05:37 for those who've never been to [inaudible], I should probably take a minute to try to describe it. It's a mishmash of everything. You've got shacks and shantytowns and some parts and million dollar mansions and others. You've got the beach, the desert and sparkling new skyscrapers next to shells of skyscrapers that we're only ever have built overall. The city looks somehow both post-apocalyptic but also futuristic at the same time in many ways. It's still in the past with chickens running around on dirt roads that cut across hillsides with apron wearing up [inaudible]. But the border city also gives us a glimpse of the future with its digital billboards, genre defining architecture and collision of world cultures. Speaker 6: 06:32 It's sort of like a readymade set if you get out of the touristy areas, which is the parts that I'm more interested in. Like the suburbs. Everything's ready made. You can put your camera anywhere you want, you know, without a script and just like start shooting and something will happen. And that was a, a large part of the idea of why I wanted to shoot down there. Um, it's just, it's a fantastic place. You know, like, you know, Tijuana's like it's like a place, kind of like a freedom, you know, I was thinking about the border wall the other day and you know, it's kind of like, for me, I'm very, very lucky, uh, with my citizenship, it's sort of like the flip side of the coin and you know, instead of keeping Mexicans out of America, it kind of keeps America out of Mexico for me. Speaker 6: 07:21 Uh, like, I don't know about you, but like when I cross I feel really good and like my phone doesn't work so no one can get ahold of me and like, my chest feels bigger than my legs feel stronger. Yeah, there's twice as much smog and smoke, but I still like, I breathe better. I just feel good. I think it's because I feel like Tijuana is like that. It's like the, it's like freedom from everything that's over here. I feel very comfortable. I like it. Um, it's like a, like a v, you know, it's a break from the no straight lines and things in like San Diego, you know, I could never shoot this film in San Diego. It would never look the right way Speaker 7: 08:09 in the second half. Okay. Speaker 3: 08:10 Only here you'll hear from an undocumented film curator in San Diego who uses Mexican movies to reconnect to his culture. Listen to KPBS is only here online at kpbs.org/podcast or get it wherever you get your podcasts. This is KPBS midday edition. [inaudible].

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Only here will you find filmmakers in San Diego and Tijuana using the border as a valuable resource instead of a janky prop.
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