We began the Maquila Project in 2000 by inviting factory workers in Tijuana and community organizations in Mexico and the U.S. to join us in creating a film that depicts globalization through the eyes of the women who live on its leading edge. The factory workers who appear in the film have been involved in every stage of production, from planning to shooting, from scripting to outreach. We wanted to engage in a collaborative process that would break with the traditional documentary practice of dropping into a location, shooting and leaving with the “goods,” which would only repeat the pattern of the maquiladora itself. We embrace subjectivity as a value and a goal. We seek to merge art-making with community development and to ensure that the film’s voice will be truly that of its subjects.
One thing all the women in Maquilapolis have in common is a sense of agency: They are promotoras, workers who sought out training in human and labor rights from local NGOs and who then committed to pass that knowledge on to their communities. In constructing a collaboration with the promotoras, we had two goals: to create a documentary that is powerful and useful to the people who most need to see and show it, including the promotoras themselves; and to further their own work by providing them with the equipment and skills to create their own activist videos in the future. Maquilapolis is complete, but the Maquila Project is ongoing, as we continue working toward our goals in the form of a binational Community Outreach Campaign.
As for our personal motivations for making this film, we are both artists who believe that art can and does participate in a cultural dialogue concerning social change and justice. Our work is also informed by our own hybrid lives: Vicky is a U.S. citizen who grew up in four countries and eight cities, and Sergio is a U.S. citizen who was raised in Tijuana and migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area as an adult. Our work on Maquilapolis is part of our ongoing investigations into biculturalism, migration, tourism and labor. We are attracted to stories that have the potential to make visible lives which have been invisible, to challenge normative definitions of people typically defined as “abject” or “other” and to examine the ways in which significant social, economic and human rights issues intersect at every turn in the lives of these individuals. We also wish to foster relationships between filmmaker and subject that challenge two key traditional notions: the idea of filmmaker as “auteur” and the idea of documentary as a carrier of “objective” truth.
We see globalization as a direct continuation of colonialism. The way that NAFTA (and other transnational and global projects) has affected the lives of millions of Mexicans is not unique. We are all workers, and we need an adequate workplace, clear hours, a just salary, medical services, a decent home and a basic education. These are things that the maquiladora industry does not offer its workers. NAFTA is not what it promised to be, and neither are the majority of projects designed in first-world nations and imposed upon third-world nations.
We hope that through this film people come to understand their own relation with Tijuana, with the maquiladora industry, with Carmen, Lourdes and other workers. In other words: The way in which we consume affects the lives of others, and not in a very positive way. We hope that people will understand that NAFTA-style treaties do not benefit the many but the few, and that one way to combat them is to support causes like those of the Chilpancingo Collective, CITTAC and the NGOs that organize to confront, to question and to resist the dark side of globalization.
While films rarely work measurable, concrete changes in the world, they are powerful tools: they open minds and create dialogue, necessary precursors to and ingredients of action. One of our great pleasures has been to watch this film open up new realms of thought, emotion and experience for audiences, just as the process of making the work opened our own minds and hearts. We hope you will be inspired to actions so that the work of women like Carmen and Lourdes can lead to ever-greater changes for the better, both in Tijuana and around the world.
—Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, Filmmakers