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El Economista profiles Flowers of the Desert: Stories from The Red Note documentary

Today's issue of the Mexican newspaper El Economista features an interview with The Red Note producer Estefania Bonilla Hernandez about Flowers of the Desert: Stories from The Red Note, the upcoming documentary comprised of interviews and footage from The Red Note podcast.

A full translation of the Economista article is reproduced below.


Three decades of femicides and disappearances in Ciudad Juárez are documented in cinema

It is necessary to tell the stories of the victims and the struggles of their families, in order to prevent them from being minimized in the statistics, says filmmaker Estefanía Bonilla.

By Ricardo Quiroga / El Economista

Estefanía Bonilla is the main producer of the podcast "The Red Note", a project that takes up almost three decades of femicides and disappearances of women in Ciudad Juárez, of which this newspaper published details in the edition of October 20 and in which it gives proof of the confrontation that families have assumed in the search for their disappeared women, the struggle for reparation of damages and the impunity perpetrated, in most cases, by governments.

Sequel to The Red Note

Narrated by the journalist Lydia Cacho, “The Red Note” tries to be a starting point from the private point of view to reflect on the atomization of gender violence in the country; an instrument against oblivion that, according to Bonilla, has transformed those who have been involved in it, without her being the exception, since she will also make her debut as a filmmaker with the documentary "Flowers of the desert: Stories of the red note" , which was carried out in parallel to the podcast and which is currently in a first phase of post-production with the intention of being released next year.

The approach to film work, the director shares, is different from the podcast, which is a linear historical contextualization in order to explain the gradual corrosion of the social and judicial system in the border city, while in the documentary the approach will be rather anthropological: "As if trying to understand history more from a root, who are the main actors, how these social, political and economic relations are being configured that have allowed the possibility of generating this type of circumstances."

However, reflects the ethnohistorian by training, there are jobs that should not and, moreover, cannot be carried out exclusively from the academy rung.

“We were approaching it a lot from the intellectual side, from an academic point of view, given that anthropology in Mexico tends to be linked to the social movement, but with very intellectual forms of thought and theoretical frameworks. But if you don't have empathy there is no way to do a project that is worthwhile and really helps families. That was one of the lessons I learned from this work, ”says Bonilla.

She relates that the lump in his throat, the impossibility of crying, was a constant during the recording of audios and images in Ciudad Juárez. To be in the field, with the families telling their story from the first person, one had to put oneself at the service of the testimonies.

An example of this is what was said on the podcast by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, who visited Juárez in the early 2000s to write about serial femicides: “when you are there and you see it first hand, then you take responsibility forever, to tell this story and do what you can to make people care. "

It was with that empathy that the director decided to make artistic work a functional instrument: “we had to think about how to tell the story in such a way that the voice of the families was not lost, of the mothers crying out for justice. It was about putting them at the center, not putting the intelligentsia or the theories that one does as a creative. At the same time it had to work to provoke discussion ”.

Generating support networks, she points out, is essential for the families of the victims, whose pattern is generally the origin of scarce resources, which, on the social scale, prevents them from frankly accessing support networks.

It is necessary to understand, she indicates, that families have done much more for their daughters than anything a documentary filmmaker can do from his privileged position. “We have not saved anyone and we are not going to save anyone. We are trying to use privilege to put it at the service of people who do not have that possibility and, in this way, begin to elevate the discourse, promote the claims, the changes that must be made in a structural way.

“It is very easy to minimize women and missing persons as if they were just another number in the statistics. It is about starting to humanize our discourse, to do it as a philosophy of our own life. That will allow networking to stop thinking about the individual. We have to see ourselves as a community again. That is the way we could face the problems we are experiencing in this neoliberal, social and political crisis ”.

Feminisms, the counterweight

She is asked if she visualizes the impact of the work, what intentions she has with it or how far she will be able to rise as a speech. Bonilla reflects and responds:

“I cannot pretend more than simply to awaken the discussion. The best I can hope for is for many people to see it and I think that is what anyone who is dedicated to this wants: to try to add voices to continue pushing this issue forward. It's not that you're going to change the world by making a podcast or a movie, but I do believe that you can awaken someone's conscience and with that the work fulfills its purpose ”.

The documentary takes place at the same time that women in the country have generated a social counterweight to denounce gender violence in the country and have filed a claim with the authorities. She says that "feminisms have turned out to be the greatest opposition to the State" and reflects that, the more female voices are raised, it will be more likely that the mechanisms of impunity will be exposed, "although that, of course, will make many people uncomfortable" . Based on this, she resolves: “if the feminist movement paints a few walls and knocks down a few windows, it should be understood where anger and rage come from; that they are not criminalized for an issue where the State has been the criminal, the one that has victimized their society for decades. The problem is not the wall or the movement, but what is happening in the system, the way in which the State is handling itself in its gut, so that we have reached the point that the only way they listen to us is that ”.

Data sheet

Original title: "Flowers of the Desert: Stories from The Red Note"

Country: United States- Mexico

Year: 2019-2020

Address: Estefanía Bonilla Hernández

Executive Production: Jason Hoch, Lydia Cacho

Producers: Craig Whitney, Will Wallace, Laura Caulfield, Estefanía Bonilla Hernández

Production Companies: Imperative Entertainment (US) & Blue Guitar (MX)

Production Supervision: Héctor Zubieta

Director of Photography: Ernesto Pardo

Research: Alicia Fernández

Screenplay: Estefanía Bonilla Hernández, Rodrigo Ríos, Craig Whitney

Editing: Rodrigo Ríos

Tentative release year: 2021

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