Tuesday, April 03, 2007


This movie tells a fictional recount of a very important issue that has received very little media coverage in the US, Mexico and abroad, the brutally rape and murder of 400+ women along the US/Mexico border, mainly near Ciudad Juarez, where most “maquilas” or huge US-owned assembly factories are.

This is an important story that should be told and should be known allover the world and even if there has been some documentaries, this is the first major film that deals with these unsolved rape and murders. So, just for the story, this is a film that has to be seen. But… before I get into the not–so-good part of the movie, let me share with you some background of this true story.

It all started with the availability of cheap labor across the US border, US corporations opening assembly factories and Mexico welcoming more jobs. With NAFTA in place, more companies opened factories and those already there expanded their facilities. Most of the workers are women, as women get lower wages than men. These factories never stop, so they have two or three shifts and some shifts end after midnight or in the wee hours of the morning. Women have to return home alone, in the dark with no protection. They became an easy target for predators claimed to come from both across the border as well as from Mexico.

Since 1993 there are about 400 recorded unsolved cases, but real figures are close to 5,000 cases, as most women and families do not report the rape and/or murder of relatives, as they are more afraid of the retaliation from local authorities.

No one wants to solve these murders, not the US companies where the women work or the Mexican authorities. If it started near Ciudad Juarez today the murders occur all the way to Chihuahua, they are intrinsically related to where the “maquilas” are mushrooming.

This is a real-life negligence of justice that deserves further attention both to solve the past cases as to stop them.

Unfortunately this movie –and here comes the BUT part- does not convey this important message to the world. Perhaps the main reason why is related to the star of the movie. Jennifer Lopez lost an incredible opportunity to show that she can act and prejudices aside she can act… unfortunately it did not happen in this movie. Here she is totally unbelievable, like the scene after she is raped, she looked fresh and very J-Lo! Not like a victim of a traumatic situation.

The movie has awful cinematography and the pace sometimes gets slow and boring. When it was premiered at 2007 Berlinale it was booed and people were laughing at some not funny moments. After seeing the movie I understand all those reactions as this is a B-movie thriller with some unnecessary and kitsch romance and other distractions from the real-life drama.

It has good and well-known actors like Antonio Banderas, Sonia Braga and Martin Sheen, but they have supporting roles. There is always an exception and Maya Zapata that plays Eva, the “lucky” girl that was brutally raped but not murdered, gives a more credible performance and since she is the center of the story you can say she has a lead character too.

Gregory Nava that helped launch Jennifer career with Selena directed and wrote this movie. But he is best known for El Norte a 1983 movie that was nominated for a 1985 Oscar for best screenplay. It is a shame that he was not able to control this movie and to write a more interesting and relevant screenplay as he did in El Norte and even Selena.

If you decide to watch this movie do it to become aware of the real-life drama and try to pay little attention to the acting and all the sideline silliness.

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