Mixed Feelings

Documentary challenges assumptions and approaches to U.S.-Mexico representation

By Phillip Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: May 16, 2002

Mixed Feelings

Mixed Feelings: San Diego/Tijuana is a documentary about the San Diego/Tijuana region and its inevitable transnational future. This unique piece successfully challenges the contemporary documentary form. Scored by a new music (Nortec) now emerging out of the Tijuana region, the documentary makes much use of digital animation and multiple paneled images. The film is a co-production between Phillip Rodriguez, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center For the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, and KPBS. Rodriguez was interviewed via e.mail by Abelardo de la Pe?a Jr.

Q: What was the motivation behind the documentary?

A: My mother grew up on that border, on the U.S. side of the Otay Mesa. When I was a boy, there were acres and acres of pepper trees, fields of cucumbers, and land. Now I go there and I don't recognize anything. I wanted to take stock of how much things had changed and more importantly, where the border area might be going.

I wanted to make something far afield from the usual ways that the U.S. - Mexico border is portrayed: drugs, danger, immigration, etc. I wanted to make a portrayal that opened the imagination into the future of the region.

The first inspirations for the project was Nortec music, this Baja based techno music coming out of the Baja middle-class. The music seemed to be a soundtrack for the future of the region. I thought it would be interesting to put pictures to that sound.

Q: Why did you call your documentary ?Mixed Feelings??

A: These two cities, two very different cultural, economic conditions, sensibilities of these two cities, two civilizations, seem totally irreconcilable. And yet, that reconciliation is what we Mexican-Americans are about.

Q: What kind of reaction have you been getting from viewers of ?Mixed Feelings?? US viewers? Mexican viewers?

A: The show is so different. It is an uncommon little film. Thematically it challenges many assumptions and approaches to U.S.-Mexico representation. Formally, it is also very different. Fortunately for us, PBS programmers are finding a way into it. It will show on stations throughout the U.S.

Q: How is Mexico changing the US? How is the US changing Mexico?

A: These civilizations are creating a common space all of the time. We children and grandchildren of Mexican immigrants probably best embody that relationship, each of us finding, deciding on a different point(s) of intersection.

Q: What are your thoughts, emotions when you cross the border from US to Mexico?

A: Once again, one is always struck by the difference, the colors, the smells, the noises. And the border itself is so foreboding, so very cruel aesthetically. One of the shots in the film is that of the border as it swallowed into the Pacific Ocean from a helicopter. One gets the sense of how silly, how temporary, how impossible the idea of the border is.

Q: How has this experience changed you?

A: It is hard to tell. But it is a very good feeling to finish a film that you like, that you feel makes a contribution and that is there to stay.

Mixed Feelings will air on May 29 at 8:30 pm on KCET - Los Angeles
More on Mixed Feelings at http://mixedfeelings.org/

About Phillip Rodriguez:
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