‘A lifelong commitment’: Documentary filmmakers share storytelling backgrounds
Filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera covered topics of civil disobedience, immigration, activism and storytelling in a virtual lecture Monday.
The talk, the second and final event of The Media School’s spring Speaker Series, included discussions about the pair’s docu-thriller project, “The Infiltrators.” The film — which premiered at Sundance in 2019 — follows undocumented activists as they go undercover inside a detention center to help set the occupants free.
“Cristina and I come from immigrant families, families of border crossers, and we’ve both been dedicated to telling stories about the borderlands, kind of broadly conceived,” Rivera said. “I think to both of us the borderlands is not just the line in the sand between two countries, but it’s a realm of stories that can transgress distance and time, that can take place in many different places but can be united by lives that link together countries.”
Both Ibarra’s and Rivera’s storytelling work is informed by their own histories, they said in the talk.
What drives Ibarra’s work, she said, is to think about the borderlands as what scholar Gloria Anzaldúa calls a third space.
“It’s neither here nor there. It’s kind of both at the same time, and I am always interested in the cultural identity that comes out of a place like this,” Ibarra said. “But it’s also carrying this legacy from my father, who was himself undocumented as he crossed back and forth along the border.”
“The Infiltrators” documents a group of young activists who decide to be detained by the Border Patrol on purpose to help get people out of a detention center. The film uses a mix of media and methods, and its process ranged from storyboard drawings by Rivera to drone footage of the area.
Ibarra and Rivera were able to show the film to the protagonists, keeping in mind the risk that may come with telling their stories, Ibarra said.
“Even though the film is about issues, large issues, it really felt like we said it was a character-centered film, rooted in a group of people rooted in a specific moment in a specific place,” Rivera said.
They have stayed in contact with the activists, Rivera said, elaborating on the paths some faced after filming.
“We work on films that impact our families,” Ibarra said. “We enter these issues out of a lifelong commitment. It’s not because it’s the issue of the month for us.”