'Distrupted Borders' featured on Season 8 of Reel South.
Filmmaker Feature

Filmmaker interview: 'Disrupted Borders' team highlights the beauty of friendships and Latinx culture

Oct 9, 2021 by Nicholas Price

El Paso is considered the “Ellis Island of the South” with over 81% Hispanic population. "Disrupted Borders" is a coming-of-age story about two best friends living on the US-Mexico border in a scarred landscape of racist attacks, family wounds, and lack of opportunities. The girls must traverse geopolitical boundaries and overcome personal thresholds in order to reinvent cultural, gender, and ability norms. The result is two extraordinary journeys, both parallel and divergent, in 3D tech innovation and artist creativity to heal themselves, their families, and their community.

Reel South proudly features this short for our eighth season and Reel South producer Nicholas Price connected with the team who created it, among them co-producer Ramon Villa-Hernández. The interview below has been edited for clarity.  

Nick: Politics is almost absent in this story. These amazing women are so focused on the work it's almost easy to forget about the constantly shifting border dynamics that affect their story but also your stories in trying to make this film. Your team faced its own barriers in making this film. Talk about what happened in trying to make and complete this film.

Ramon: This film is a trans-fronterizx project. The director is from Ciudad Juarez, Chih, Mex and the producing team is from El Paso, Texas, USA. We wanted to make this story about the region and how borders are prevalent but our stories can cross them without needing permission. Every day for production, we had a team member pick up the director/cinematographer at the International bridge and take her to the set. She followed Shelly and Wendy around and captured many moments that highlight our border identity. 

Once we went into POST, the pandemic hit and we needed to use the internet to communicate (like the rest of the world) with the director because the international bridges were shut down for everyday visitors, still are to this day.  Our editor is located in Austin, TX so we also had to zoom in to meet with him and discuss the edits. It was an experience to edit live while being on the internet. 

Nick: What did you learn from Wendy and Shelly in persevering through these unprecedented times?

Ramon: Wendy and Shelly taught us a lot about the creative process. Shelly with her patience and Wendy with her tech views. Both protagonists contributed to this film with their urgency of wanting to create and that was parallel to our process. This project was born after the 2019 Wal-Mart shooting that devastated the city of El Paso. This domestic terrorist attack targeted our largely Mexican-American community that was fueled by the presidential xenophobic rhetoric at the time. Wendy and Shelly reminded us of the beauty that is overlooked in our community. 

Nick: Do you think Wendy and Shelly learned anything from you during the making of this film?

Ramon: They learned the concept of teamwork, and how long the creative process can take for a short documentary. 

Nick: Texas is so clearly becoming defined by controversy and tragedy in the national/mainstream media. What does this film say about the future of Texas?

Ramon: This film reflects that the future is female and Latinx.

Nick: What is the El Paso / Ciudad Juarez filmmaking community like? What keeps you motived to tell stories from your home?

Ramon: There are many stories that the national media does not concentrate on about the border and its residents. We hope this story can inspire others to create and rebuild. 

Nick: Any favorite behind-the-scenes moments?

Ramon: This was the first time that Wendy had ever been to the ocean. We captured that moment and it will now live forever. 

Nick: What is next for you and your team?

Ramon: The team is working on different projects after "Disrupted Borders." This was a one-time journey for all parties involved. 

Watch "Disrupted Borders" on PBS today. 


Documentary Filmmaking