This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
1 . Lourdes Portillo (2002).Fig. Photogiaph by Lori Eames .
that we met several of the family members of victims. To the families of the victims. when questioned. My world was shaken to its core. There was n o way to make a documentary in which any approximation to journalistic objectivity could be claimed. gave only cavalier and confused responses. a search in the desert for the bodies of women (see fig. They were to become t h e protagonists of Sefiorita Extraviada. whose deaths caused unending grief. Word of the spectacular murders slowly leaked to the press. In that afternoon I saw a harrowing panorama of what might be taking place. and the Aztlin 28:2 Fall 2003 0University of C:alifc)mia Regents 229 . Their deaths remained no more than statistics for the press for many years.Filming Sefiorita Extauiada Lourdes Portillo Over the last ten years approximately 340 young women have been systematically murdered in perverse sex crimes in the border city of JuLez. organ thieves. Lurid pictures of the girls’ dismembered bodies were published and added to the brutality of their murders. When I decided to make a documentary about the girls I went to Jugrez and found a deafening wall of silence: most people. In 1998 when I arrived. during that first search in the enormous desert. these girls were their loved ones. Mexico. The monster had no head or tail. the population was terrified and silenced. carefully painted by the testimonies of those same people who suffered through the ordeals. 2). A small human rights group Comitk Independiente de Chihuahua Pro-Defensa de Derechos Humanos (CICH) invited us to a rastreo. or a cult engaged in satanic sacrifices. The press used the killings as a source of endless speculation. The media treated the deaths as a mysterious occurrence-the work of a serial killer. were too terrorized to speak out. The authorities. They spoke eloquently about their experiences and their suspicions. But the increasing number of murders without recourse to justice was devastating to the community. It was there. Chihuahua. from leaders of women’s organizations to common citizens.
many of them members of the wealthiest families in JuBrez. Once the film was finished it received international attention because for the first time the girls were humanized. the police force. 2. fear experienced by the people of Ju5rez became part of my own daily life for the next three years. She found out information that neither the authorities nor the media had acknowledged and recorded it in a series of humble little notebooks. tenaciously followed the trail of her daughter’s murder as only a mother could. This was the beginning of the journey of making the film. the same ones I met in the desert. Still from Sefiorita Extraviada. I continued to seek out the victims’ relatives. during which we uncovered a n endless web of complicity by the government. Maria Talamantez was repeatedly raped in the police station and was shown a photo album of the girls as they were being murdered. She is a brave and righteous woman whose testimony helped put pieces of the puzzle together. Rastreo.Portillo Fig. Irene Blanco. These voices were the most important because they rang true and demanded justice. O n e of them was Eva Arce. a dignified and intelligent member of the upper class. These were the stories that spoke to me and became the heart of my film. searching in the desert for the bodies of murdered women (2001). and the powerful narcotraffickers. Photograph by Gabriel Cardona. who fought for justice and nearly paid with the life of her son. U p to that moment they had 230 . convinced that someday these notes would help justice prevail. with her limited resources. was a n eloquent voice in that desert of silence. who.
victim Sagrario Gonraler and organizer ofVoces sin eco ing infiltrated and many were (2000). 3 ) . in JuBrez Fig. With this strategy. Photograph courtesy of Guillemina Gonraler Flores. Norway. a shocking occurrence even in JuBrez. It is not objective journalism. It evokes compassion and incites action. I therefore decided to travel with the film and to speak out about what was happening. but to whom and from whom? I traveled endlessly. In San Antonio. We decided that Seiiorita Extraviada needed to be shown in Mexico. Mexican filmmaker Maria Navaro. to Italy. It takes a strong stance. T h e murders continued flagrantly. In t h e film we chose to show the “living” girls rather than the mutilated bodies that had been lasciviously photographed and published (see fig. Canada. W h a t t h e film demands from its viewers is action.” not human beings who deserved action and justice on their behalf. and to gather signatures and letters to both President Fox and President Bush. so I refinanced my house in order to take a year off to do this work. It was a message. sister of murder groups Of activists were be. T h e film put a face on the suffering. Greece. who have taken it upon themselves to carry the banner for justice in JuBrez. Texas I met up with a friend. I have spoken to influential journalists in many countries. No foundations were willing to support this human rights crusade. and other countries to get the word out. Meanwhile.Filming Sefiorita Extraviada been just statistics or “poor brown women. the film touched people a n d audiences felt compassion for the young women. Guillermina Gonzaler Flores. 3. Maria set out to organize screenings and returned to Mexico 23 1 . Spain. and in November 2001 eight bodies were found in one place. lured with money or threatened with death so that they would drop their advocacy efforts.
handed the film to the president’s wife. Ms.000 people in attendance. initiated a discussion about the murders that galvanized many to action. There was a n outdoor screening in the plaza in Coyoacan with 2. Mrs. She organized many screenings in Mexico City.Portillo Fig 4 . The marchers demanded that President Fox order a federal investigation into the murders. with a single VHS cassette. Photograph by Gabriel Cardona. Yet. Women’s groups and human rights groups started organizing around the issue. 4). 232 . The women of Jugrez became a cause in Mexico (see fig. and for the first time people were mobilized to action. leading intellectuals of Mexico. Elena Poniatowska and Carlos Monsivais. T h e international human rights community must take a stand and demand an international investigation to put a stop to these crimes. Fox was indignant. Earlier in the year Marta Lamas. 10. A cemetery in Jurirez. Pirated copies of the film were produced and disseminated. Lamas commented that after seeing it. Mexico (2001). In December 2002.000 people marched to the zo’calo in the heart of Mexico City where the National Palace is located (see fig. Still from Sefiorita Extraviada. Why? How many young women must be murdered for the federal government of Mexico to take a stand? It is now reported that various levels of government and organized crime are implicated in the killings. Marta Sahugun. Following the screening. to this day President Fox considers these murders to be only the state of Chihuahua’s problem. a noted writer. 5).
What is behind these crimes? Who has that much power? Meanwhile. and young women continue to disappear (see fig. bodies continue to appear. Burial ofmurder victim Maria Isabel Nava (20011. and the culprits are becoming more sophisticated in covering up the crimes. Fig. Mexico (2001). 5. Photograph by Ramiro Escobar Adame. 6). A cemetery in lucirez. 233 . Still from Sefiorita Extraviada. Phorograph by Gabriel Cardona. 6 . T h e killings continue. T h e authorities have been briefed by public relations firms and now know how to answer journalists’ questions without giving any information out.Filming Sefiorita Extraviada Fig.
and funders who supported the project (see fig. the poorest workers are systematically gathered in one geographical place. maquiladoras. not unlike slave plantations of the old South. have become the new “killing fields. The independent film community was crucial in its support and funding of the film. Fig. 7. the factory. and promote understanding and compassion.” They are a n open door for globalized crime where impunity for killers is the order of the day. commitment. foundations. Our task is to communicate heart to heart. T h e art of film can be used in the service of the unprotected. At this height of world globalization. it is critical that film become a n activist tool. It is a reality where one’s worth is measured in dollars and cents. crew. I gratefully acknowledge the loyalty. Photograph by Gabriel Cardona 234 . It was all these forces together that gave Seiiorita Extraviada wings. activate. and unprotected from commercial interests by governments.Portillo What is alarming is that as the world’s economy becomes globalized. T h e production was a collaborative effort between the activists. to join our forces that will put an end to the violence and brutality perpetrated on those without voice! T h e success of Seiiorita Extraviada was made possible by the efforts of many. subjects of the film. Seiiorita Extraviada take one (2001). and artistry of the crew who worked on the film. The factories where they work. and documentary can take a stance and inform. 7).
. being stalked and brutally. Mexico. independent documentary filmmaker born in Chihuahua.murdered (Senorita Extrauiudu). Mexico.LOURDES PORTILLO. focuses some of her work on exposing unjust treatment: from Argentineans being killed for their political dissidence (see her Academy Award nominated film Las Mudres) to young women of Juarez.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.