Of Kites and Borders is a choral documentary woven by the voices of four working children from Tijuana, one of the largest border cities in the world. Edie, just a teen, risks his life leading people across the border to the US for a living. He spends his hard earned dollars on cockfighting - the only passion that helps him escape from a bitter reality. Next door, Carmela, a nine-year-old girl who collects scrap metal in the dumps for a living, fantasizes of a better life while contemplating the giant maquilas (assembly plants) that crown her slum. Less than a mile away, Fernando and his brother AdriŠn conceal their childhood with masks to perform wrestling matches beneath the streetlights to support their family, while dreaming of one day becoming famous Mexican luchadores.
These are children who draw upon their youth and imagination to break free of the borders, both visible and invisible, that confine their daily existence. With a visually poetic approach, the film emerges as a tale in which reality and metaphor can merge.
Six years ago, I was working on an essay about people who had been deported from the USA and had crossed the desert to rejoin their families in America. During my research, I interviewed a man who had recently crossed the border guided by two little boys. Picturing children leading adults to their hopes and dreams deeply impressed me. The idea of finding those "ni√Īos pollero" that risk their young lives to lead people to their dreams drove me to Tijuana for the first time. After numerous trips to the area, three articles, and two short films (Promised Land, 2006; Tijuana Nada M√°s, 2008) later, I became not just passionate about this city but about its people. There, I came to meet dozens of struggling children, some of them for whom Tijuana embodied a mother and teacher.
As a traditionally trained journalist and documentary filmmaker, meeting and filming these young people opened a completely new window for me. Far from being passive victims of violence, misery and abuse - a recurrent representation in many journalistic and documentary works on border children, the children I found in Tijuana were people ready to fight for their right to be children over and over again. I also came to realize that the city in which they live is not a "border city" but a "border turned into a city". The border exists as more than just a solid concrete wall- it is something you feel, speak, breathe. As many locals say: "Here, you don't inhabit the border, the border inhabits you." From the stories of these children, we see how this phrase rings true. The border is something that crawls beneath the skin, and so "the other side" is no longer the USA, but a childhood as unreachable as the adult's promised land. Following the path of this border made of blood and flesh, our steps took us to the recently demolished slums of La Nueva Esperanza (The New Hope), a shanty town of paracaidistas (parachutists) that landed after the promise of a better life under the shadow of the enormous maquilas (assembly plants). There, we found a place seeped in misery, toxic gases and sewage waters from the factories. Despite all the desolation we saw, dozens of children would climb to the roofs of their shacks to fly their papalotes (kites) during sunset. In this slum, we found Edie, Carmela, and the two brothers Fernando and AdriŠn. Since the moment I met them, I knew these children embodied the story I wanted to tell - a story about children who are like fighting cocks that never give up; like Mexican wrestlers who know how to fall; like papalotes (kites) that ride the wind and fly far away.
Of Kites and Borders is a story of hope, struggle, and survival that digs behind the headlines to explore the fundamental nature of immigration and the persistence of childhood dreams. As the U.S. Administration faces increased pressure on Immigration Reform, the contentious issue of border control receives continuous coverage in the mainstream media. I made Of Kites and Borders not just because of my passion for storytelling but because of my wish to offer a different perspective on border issues - a perspective that invites the viewers to rethink the concept of "border" and "otherness." We often find stories about people crossing borders, but where are the stories on how borders cross people's lives?