Revista Enfoques examines the "raw stories" of The Red Note podcast with director Craig Whitney
Craig Whitney, the director of The Red Note podcast, spoke with Revista Enfoques in Colima, Mexico last week to discuss the making of the podcast and his creative team's upcoming plans to make a feature film about the femicide in Juarez.
A complete translation of Craig's interview about The Red Note podcast is available below.
Click on the following link to read the full piece in the original Spanish on the Revista Enfoques website: La Nota Roja: crudas historias de los feminicidios en Ciudad Juárez
The Red Note: raw stories of the femicides in Ciudad Juárez
By Luis González / Revista Enfoques
The Red Note is a podcast that revolves around the femicides that occurred in Ciudad Juárez during the last 25 years. During January and February 2020, a group of journalists and filmmakers from Mexico and the United States traveled to that state to speak with families of victims of feminicide, authorities and academics to understand the origins of these crimes, and how corruption, impunity, machismo and social problems have allowed them to spread throughout all of Mexico.
This podcast brings together all this research to be narrated by journalist Lydia Cacho, sharing with us the scars that still persist within these stories.
In an exclusive interview for Enfoques Magazine, the American director of the project, Craig Whitney, tells us about the experience they had interviewing families and their time in Ciudad Juárez.
Why The Red Note?
Craig, thinks that they could not find a more perfect title than The Red Note, because “it is not a story only of real crimes, it has connections to many other stories about the world in which we live. We want to communicate that it is a story about systemic violence, gender violence”.
What was it like to interview the relatives of the women who had been victims and how were these families selected?
He explains that going through all this was quite strong, because despite the fact that he had already read dozens of books about violence in Ciudad Juárez, it was not at all comparable to experiencing it, much less being in front of parents who had lost to his daughters victims of femicides.
“Even so, I am very happy to have the help of journalist Alicia Fernández to do the interviews. Being a border journalist, she did the interviews with the families. Well, since she is from Juárez, he has a personal connection with the families”. He reiterates that without the help of Alicia Fernández it would have been much more difficult for families to tell what was the most horrible day of their lives, since there would be no basic trust to enter into their privacy. Since the idea was not to make one more podcast of real crimes, but to focus more in the victims.
"To tell it, without falling into the clichés of other programs such as CSI or Law & Order, it is important to listen to the words in the voices of families to understand how they suffer, how they were marked for life and people can empathize."
The director said that all the families interviewed were connected in some way to the Juarez investigator and journalist Alicia Fernández, which undoubtedly gave the stories more naturalness and expressiveness.
How did the idea of investigating this issue that, unfortunately, has become part of the Mexican daily life?
He says that in Texas, where he comes from, the stories of the femicides in Ciudad Juárez are quite well-known, so he was already quite familiar with the subject, which at first led them to want to shoot a feature film in the city .
“It is a very complicated story, who are the culprits here? It is very easy to say that they are only the criminals, but it is more true that the culprits are the forces that are in Juarez, organized criminals, corruption, trafficking of people, drug trafficking, weapons, infrastructure problems”. Thus, the idea is to show that there are people who control the lives of ordinary people, and that it does not happen only in Ciudad Juárez, but is related to multiple stories around the planet, to expose how the world works today.
What was it like to be in a hot area like Ciudad Juárez?
Craig Whitney mentions that it was an incredible experience, as everyone was friendly during their time in the area. Even receiving thanks from the people of Juárez for telling these stories.
“I'm a gringo, and I was nervous that the people on the border will not like the project or that they will not trust us. Many of our team are Mexican, but it is very important for me to be able to share the culture with the border and what the lives of people from Ciudad Juárez are like".
He emphasizes that all of these thanks and warm welcome lessened all the dangerous experiences they went through at one point. Feeling comfortable with the common inhabitants of Juárez, with whom they were able to share experiences, stories and moments in the midst of all the stories of violence.
Are you planning to rework a project with this twist?
He added that there is a desire to make other podcasts projects, not necessarily with the femicides in Ciudad Juárez, but rather exploring the problems of systemic violence in the world or in Latin America.
It is also planned to take up the idea of the feature film in 2021, with which this project was born.
“I am very happy that we can do it after our experience with the podcast, because we have more experience, more time. We are not experts, but we are already familiar and with new skills, to transform these stories into something visual, which can be strong and raw, but very honest”.
Where can we find The Red Note?
This podcast can be found in two versions: in Spanish titled La Nota Roja, and in English called The Red Note. Both can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and all platforms that support podcasts.
"If there are listeners who want to support the podcast, they can write a review or a rating on Apple Podcast, invite more people to listen to the project and share the story so that it is known in Mexico and around the world," he concluded.