Life and Death on La Frontera

June 8th, 2008 11:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

I’m bogged down with implosion-inducing allergies, so I thought I might recycle share this review of Bordertown that I posted on Amazon a few months ago. I agree with Melissa at Women & Hollywood – it’s not the best movie, but still worth a look.

Bordertown (2007)

Disposable women, disposable society


Loosely based on several of the many Ciudad Juárez murders, BORDERTOWN is two parts docudrama/political commentary and two parts suspense/thriller. Though the subject of the film is an important one, the movie does suffer from a few major flaws.

Most likely, you’ve heard little or nothing about the 15-year serial killing spree(s) in the neighboring Mexican cities of Juárez and Chihuahua. Probably you’ve read a short article, maybe buried in the back of the “international” section of your local paper, about the latest death toll. Maybe you’ve seen a few pieces over the years, each giving rise to an eerie sense of déjà vu: “Haven’t I read this before? Didn’t the police already catch this killer? Surely this is a different case…”

Between 1993 and the present day, at least 400 women, primarily employed in the maquiladoras established along the Mexican/American border, have been found dead. Raped, murdered, strangled, mutilated. Dumped like trash. Another 5,000+ women are reported missing. Most likely they are dead, but their families will never know, can never rest, because there is no outcry, no investigation, no justice. Government corruption, police incompetence, and international indifference have all conspired against justice. After all, these are poor brown women we are talking about. Disposable women in a disposable society.

BORDERTOWN attempts to tell the tales of all these women through the story of one girl, Eva Jimenez, a 16-year-old factory worker who is kidnapped on her way home from work, raped, and buried alive. Left for dead. Though her assailants – two men, gang rapists – thought they killed her, she survives and, with the help of two reporters (played by Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Baderes), tries to bring them to justice.

While I generally enjoyed the movie (as much as you can “enjoy” a movie about femicide), it does tend towards the melodramatic at times. The acting is generally adequate, though Maya Zapata is a standout as Eva. (So much so that I immediately hopped onto Netflix and put all her films in my queue.) Most of the melodrama is due to the script, rather than overacting. There are also a few plot holes, which I won’t get into for fear of spoiling the ending. However, one is so large that you’ll know it when you see it. (Just in case you don’t, a hint: it involves the trial and the immediacy of Eva’s testimony.)

Even so, BORDERTOWN is monumental film, in that it addresses an ongoing situation of gross human rights abuses that the mainstream media has largely ignored. Any time you can get A-list stars to sign on to such a project, it’s a big f’in deal. And while the film itself isn’t as rigorous in detailing the Ciudad Juárez gender-cide as I would prefer – the subplot about Lopez’s childhood and her character’s relationship with Banderes was distracting at best – it’s still a good vehicle for getting the message out, for letting people know what is and isn’t happening south of the border. The DVD extras, which include two documentaries (“Exposing the Juarez Murders: The Making of Bordertown” and “La Frontera – The Border”), as well as a “get involved” menu (the first time I’ve ever seen that on a DVD!) are particularly poignant and compelling. So while it certainly isn’t a great movie – maybe a B-/C+ at best – it is still a movie that you, along with your friends and family (and Lou Dobbs, if you can compel him!), should see.

And, after the movie’s over, don’t forget about these women like the rest of the world. Use the resources provided to learn more, to take action, to get involved. As Eva Canseco explains in “La Frontera – The Border”, we’re all citizens of the same community; we need to protect one another, to care what happens to our neighbors, to act while we still have the agency to do so. The women raped and murdered, the men tortured into confessing – they could easily be you or I. Human rights abuses are not limited to “developing” or “third world” nations. Read the paper more closely (better yet, a feminist blog or two) and you’ll be surprised to see what’s happening in your own backyard.

Additional Links

Bordertown @ Amnesty International – More about the movie

Demand Justice for the Women and Girls of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, México @ Amnesty International – Learn more and take action

Amnesty USA Blogs – Entries tagged “ciudad juarez”

Disposable Women of Juarez – A blog devoted to chronicling media reports of the Ciudad Juárez murders

Border Echoes: The Truth Behind the Juarez Murders – A documentary film by Lorena Mendez-Quiroga

Ciudad Juarez:The Serial Killer’s Playground – An informative (if sadistically titled) article on

Bibliography about the Women of Ciudad Juárez, México @ Los Angeles Valley College – An exhaustive list


This review was also posted on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!

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