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September 2007

By Melissa Walters


Distributor: MGM
Director: Gregory Nava
Screenwriter: Gregory Nava
Cinematographer: Rey Villalobos
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas, Martin Sheen, Sonia Braga, Maya Zapata
Rating: (for violence including a brutal rape, sexuality, nudity and language)
Running Time: 115 min


Bordertown, written and directed by Academy Award nominated director Gregory Nava, is inspired by true events in Juarez, Mexico. It recounts the murders of countless female laborers employed in American factories known as maquiladores in Mexico since the 1990’s.

In exchange for a promise of a position as foreign correspondent, Chicago journalist Lauren Adrian (Jennifer Lopez) reluctantly embarks on assignment to investigate the murders in Juarez Mexico. Upon her arrival in Juarez, Adrian reunites with a former co-worker and love interest, Alfonso Diaz (Antonio Banderas), who has settled into obscurity as the editor of the local newspaper, El Sol. Diaz, who assists the families of victims trying to find bodies of the missing, explains to Adrian that the murders are more numerous then the police admit because the police themselves are involved in a cover up. Nevertheless, no longer motivated by the need for journalist acclaim that drives Adrian, Diaz refuses to work with her to expose the murders.

However, just as Adrian arrives in Juarez, a rumor circulates about an indigenous woman who managed to survive and escape the devil in the desert. Adrian catches sight of her in the offices of El Sol, where the young Eva Jimenez (Maya Zapata) appears seeking Diaz’ protection from the police. Responding to a tip, the police appear at Diaz’ office leaving Eva no choice but to accept Adrian’s offer of help. Adrian enlists the help of Theresa Casillas (Sonia Braga), who started a group to aid the female workers, to protect Eva.

After witnessing the Juarez police deny the evidence that suggests that a group of murderers are to blame for the missing women and convinced that the police are obstructing her investigation, Adrian, assisted by Diaz, embarks on a life threatening crusade to capture Eva’s attackers. Simultaneously she struggles with inner demons; realizing that her professional aspirations are driven by a need to escape suppressed memories of her own humble beginnings as the orphaned daughter of migrant workers. For Adrian her mission goes beyond exposing a story no one wants to hear.

Despite the assurances of her editor, George Morgan (Martin Sheen) that her story about the women of Juarez is her best work yet, Adrian is shocked to learn that it will not see the light of day. Adrian returns to Chicago to learn that her editor’s silence has been bought by political forces interested in advancing the Free Trade Act. However Adrian’s silence cannot be bought and she risks her life to return to Juarez to save Eva and herself.

This unlikely thriller was filmed on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico and parts of Mexico, including Juarez. The cinematography and musical score effectively convey the poverty, social and political oppression facing the Mexican laborers in the bordertowns by day, and the dark and deadly underworld that threatens by night.

The film reunites Lopez and Nava, who previously worked together in 1995’s My Family and 1997’s Selena. Co-produced by Lopez, the film offers superb performances by its predominantly Latino stars, including Lopez who was dynamic in her role as the ambitious yet vulnerable Adrian; Banderas, who continues to prove that he cannot be typecast; he is as effective in a dramatic role as he is a comedic one and the timeless Braga, who last joined Lopez in the forgettable Angel Eyes. A notable mention to the young Zapata, who has established a solid career in Spanish language films. She was impressive alongside this all-star cast, which also included Columbian rocker, Juanes, known for his humanitarian work with victims of landmines, who lends his controversial hit “La Camisa Negra”, in a performance sequence during the film.

The conclusory accusations that resonate in this film are just as likely to create skepticism as it is likely to disturb. But every once and a while a film that educates is as good as a film that entertains, and this film, despite its difficult subject matter succeeds in doing both.