Monthly Archives: February 2018

When We Meet Again – Newest Americans Project

I’ve been an admirer of The Newest Americans project since Ed Kashi introduced it to me almost two years ago, and I’ve been following the work of it’s producers – Talking Eyes Media – since well before that. So when Julie Winokur and Talking Eyes reached out to me about working on a project together I jumped at the chance.

The news cycle has been so full of Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric recently that it’s all to easy to lose perspective on the fact that these statistics actually represent real individuals and families. The current American administration seems to be pouring much of its energy into vilifying Mexicans and fortifying its borders to make sure that Mexicans stay to the South. But in reality the border is an artificial construction and there will always be people flowing over it in both directions. And as long as more opportunity and wealth exists in the United States, hard working Mexicans will follow. At the end of the day everyone is just looking to do the best for themselves and their families, and in this sense it is only logical for people to go where the money is. Yet because of the harsh immigration laws, the trip to the US is often a one-way affair and those who have made it across are unable to return home for fear of forever being locked out.

This is the premise of the story that Talking Eyes approached me with. A family of 10 sisters was divided between New York and their home state of Tlaxcala in Mexico and all but one had at one point gone to the US in search of higher wages. At the time of production the family was roughly split in half between the two countries and neither side was able to freely travel back and forth to see each other. In fact some of the sisters had gone more than a decade without seeing each other, and even when their mother died they were unable to return for the funeral.

This story follows Gaby, the only sister to have never left Mexico, as she gains special permission to visit her family in New York following the death of their mother. But more than that it is a story about family and love. Enjoy!

Posted in Blog, Central America, Mexico, Video

The Trade – ShowTime

When I first moved to Mexico and set up as a documentary filmmaker, one of the first questions anyone asked me was “have you seen Cartel Land?”. Once I’d watched it I knew why – it was one of the most interesting and hardest hitting documentaries I’d seen in a long time, and it did an incredible job of explaining the convoluted and complex relationship between drug cartels, the government, and the people caught in the middle. There were no heroes in this story, just truth.

So when the Academy-award nominated produced (and a fellow former Canadian tree planter) reached out to me about shooting a sequence for his unofficial follow up, I agreed immediately.

The Trade is a multi-part mini series set to launch on ShowTime in February, 2018, and from the advanced screenings I was able to see it is even more powerful than Cartel Land. The show follows a series of characters on both sides of the border as drugs and the conflicts they create impact their lives in unimaginable ways. I won’t try and explain all the complexities of a project that took years to do properly, but suffice it to say I was glad to play even a small role in making it happen. I don’t yet know which episode my work will feature in, but it doesn’t really matter – the show is so good that every minute is worth your time.

Posted in Blog, Central America, Drugs, Mexico, Video

Mexico City’s Last Living River

An offering of fruit and flowers sits on the banks of the Rio Magdalena. Such offerings are typically made only near clean water, a resource in short supply in Mexico City.

An offering of fruit and flowers sits on the banks of the Rio Magdalena. Such offerings are typically made only near clean water, a resource in short supply in Mexico City.

For the last year and a half I have spent a great deal of time looking at the chronic water shortages in Mexico City and how it affects people living in North America’s biggest city. In the course of this work I discovered the tragic story of the Rio Magdalena and what it represents for the future of Mexico’s water woes.

Once a city lined with so many canals that it was often compared to Venice, any contemporary visitor to the Mexican capital will notice a conspicuous absence of water. There are no rivers flowing anywhere in the immense urban sprawl because they are all dead — which is to say they are too polluted to support life. All but the Rio Magdalena.

So when Foreign Policy reached out to me looking for ideas for their issue on climate change and the environment, the story of Mexico City’s last living river was a perfect match. For a week I walked the length of this river from its source to the urban sprawl at its terminus. What I found was deeply unsettling: a beautiful river supporting all manner of flora and fauna turned into a tepid trickle of sludge more or less as soon as it made contact with ‘civilization’.

Horses drink from the Rio Magdalena and graze on the grass that grows on its banks. As the last living river in Mexico City, the micro climate around the river is rare for the area.

Horses drink from the Rio Magdalena and graze on the grass that grows on its banks. As the last living river in Mexico City, the micro climate around the river is rare for the area.

A father and son cross the Rio Magdalena, a popular weekend destination for Mexico City urbanites.

A father and son cross the Rio Magdalena, a popular weekend destination for Mexico City urbanites.

A pair of old running shoes hang from the trees along the banks of the Rio Magdalena. Though the natural environment is far cleaner in the surrounding hills than in the city itself, human waste and interference is the greatest threat to the river.

A pair of old running shoes hang from the trees along the banks of the Rio Magdalena. Though the natural environment is far cleaner in the surrounding hills than in the city itself, human waste and interference is the greatest threat to the river.

A tree's eroded roots are covered in plastic that has washed ashore along the banks of the Rio Magdalena.

A tree’s eroded roots are covered in plastic that has washed ashore along the banks of the Rio Magdalena.

The Rio Magdalena passes under a series of bridges in the Fuentes del Pedregal neighbourhood of Mexico City. The deeper into the city the river goes, the more heavily polluted it becomes.

The Rio Magdalena passes under a series of bridges in the Fuentes del Pedregal neighbourhood of Mexico City. The deeper into the city the river goes, the more heavily polluted it becomes.

Posted in Blog, Central America, Environmental, Mexico, Water