On the eve of the world premiere of their new film The Infiltrators in the NEXT section at the Sundance Film Festival, filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera attended the 2019 Art House Convergence annual conference for a conversation about cinema, the U.S./Mexico border, and Latino-identity.
The Infiltrators, a formally inventive hybridization of narrative and documentary that combines footage of the real-life Dreamers who go undercover in detention facilities with dramatic reenactments of their efforts, received the NEXT Audience Award and NEXT Innovator Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
This conversation took place in the final days of a prolonged partial-shutdown of the U.S. federal government (the longest in the country’s history) spurred by a political stalemate over the construction of a border wall.
Collectively, Ibarra and Rivera have been making films about the border and its cultural, economic, and technological reverberations for over twenty years. They were founding members of the artist-run Latino distribution collective SubCine, and have participated in community based cinema programming through the ITVS community cinema program and Science on Screen respectively.
Information about booking The Infiltrators is forthcoming. However, their earlier documentary and narrative films about the production of the border as a place and idea are currently available for booking.
Las Marthas (Cristina Ibarra, 2013, 69 min.) Book this film.
Unlike any other, the annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas is part of a lucrative month-long festival honoring George Washington’s birthday. LAS MARTHAS follows two young women as they prepare for this elaborate rite of passage: Laurita, a 13th-generation debutante descended from Laredo’s original Spanish land grantees who questions debutante society’s class system geared toward girls like herself; and Rosario, a high-achieving, Mexican-raised and U.S.-schooled outsider struggling to understand the elite society’s unspoken rules.
Tracing the event’s origins back to 1898, the film works to unravel why a town like Laredo – with a population that is 98% Mexican – feels such affinity for America’s Founding Father. Despite history and all odds, the celebration perseveres and flourishes thanks to the Mexican American girls who wear this gilded tradition in the form of elaborate colonial gowns. LAS MARTHAS is a beautifully drawn and sometimes humorous, coming of age portrait of these two young women as they navigate this complex tradition in a time of economic uncertainty and political tension over immigration and border relations between the US and Mexico.
The Last Conquistador (Cristina Ibarra & John J. Valdez, 2008, 60 min.) Book this film.
Renowned sculptor John Houser has a dream: to build the world’s tallest bronze equestrian statue for the city of El Paso, Texas. He envisions a stunning monument to Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate that will honor the contributions Hispanic people made to building the American West. But as the project nears completion, troubles arise.
Native Americans are outraged — they remember Oñate as the man who brought genocide to their land and sold their children into slavery. As El Paso divides along lines of race and class in The Last Conquistador, the artist must face the moral implications of his work. A co-production of Independent Television Service (ITVS). A co-presentation of Latino Public Broadcasting, Native American Public Telecommunications and KERA Dallas/Fort Worth.
Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, 2008, 90 min.) Book this Film
Sleep Dealer is a Sundance award-winning sci-fi thriller packed with stunning visuals and strong social and political themes.
Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Peña) is a young man in near-future Mexico. When his family is victim of a misguided drone attack he finds himself with no option but to head north, towards the U.S./Mexico border. But migrant workers cannot cross this new world border – it’s been sealed off. Instead, Memo ends up in a strange digital factory in Mexico where he connects his body to a robot in America.
Memo’s search for a better future leads him to love, loss, and a confrontation with a mysterious figure from his past.
The Los Angeles Times writes “Adventurous, ambitious and ingeniously futuristic, Sleep Dealer is a welcome surprise. It combines visually arresting science fiction done on a budget with a strong sense of social commentary in a way that few films attempt, let alone achieve.“