Opening 22 Feb 2007
There are many towns along the border regions between Mexico and the United States which provide financial refuge for American big business. The town of Juarez, Mexico, is noted for its endless corruption as well as being a safe haven for the corrupt. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has made it economically possible for American businesses to run factories in Mexico which assemble low-cost goods for U.S. consumption. These factories, known as maquiladoras, employ thousands of women from all over Mexico who have been promised a stable job, good pay and a safe working environment. Tragically, after being hired, they come to know nothing of what was promised and succumb to horrific slave labor conditions working for a few cents an hour. Most of these families have spent their life savings to travel to the factories but, with below standard wages, these people are forced to live in shacks made of cardboard boxes. The shack communities are located outside the city. Most women holding these factory jobs have to travel to the city (for work) and back to their neighborhood on the factory work bus which, for many women, becomes the mode of transportation that will take them out of this world.
News reporter for the Chicago Sentinel, Lauren Adrian (Jennifer Lopez), needs a gripping human interest story to get her dream job. She comes across some information relating to the horrific working conditions in the maquiladoras. It is only after hearing about young female factory workers mysteriously disappearing in Juarez, Mexico, does it tweak her interest for the story she has been waiting for. Lauren contacts former lover and working partner, Diaz (Antonio Banderas), who publishes the local Juarez newspaper, inquiring about the murders. Annoyed that she suddenly shows up just to get a story, he hopes to discourage her and agrees to meet her at the desert site where the young murder victims are known to be dumped and scattered in pieces. Lauren makes it known to Diaz that she wants a story and won’t leave town until she gets it. Diaz is not happy about her presence mostly because of the danger that she would face but is also aware that she just might be the one to find the people responsible for the recent chain of hideous events. On the third day of Lauren’s stay she is waiting for Diaz to show up for work to ask him more questions. A mother and daughter appear at the office looking strangely fearful. Diaz arrives and they rush to talk with him. Lauren observes the odd encounter and, curious herself, moves closer to eavesdrop in time to hear that they have recent information on the murders. Diaz brings the three women into his office as they franticly explain that the daughter, Eva (Maya Zapata), is the latest factory worker victim who was left for dead but miraculously survived. Diaz is shocked at Eva’s story and fearful himself when he sees the police pull up outside the office. Diaz knows his fate has just begun and Lauren’s mission for a story takes on a different passion. Together the former newspaper partners are obsessed to find Eva’s kidnapper(s) and work around the clock until justice is done.
The international acclaimed screenwriter, producer and director, Gregory Nava of Bordertown, is passionate about this film’s subject matter because it hits close to his roots growing up on the border of Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California. Though, in my opinion, the film is not well made, the story is worthy of lots of press coverage; so, I say hats off to Nava for making the film in spite of its filming adversities. Nava’s co-worker, Barbara Martinez Jitner, did a lot of the research and filming in Juarez (Nava’s fame would not allow him access into the country to work on the story). She found out the hard way that this true story is a hot topic. It was during filming on location that she and her crew received personal death threats if they did not end filming the story and leave the country; hours of raw film footage; cameras, film equipment and personal belongings were mysteriously stolen from their possession. They were forced to leave the country with very little to show for it….unfortunately. On the other hand, these gross mishaps were all the more reason for Amnesty International to aid in helping the real victims' families stop violence against women in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico. For more information, check out the Amnesty International website. (Karen Pecota)