A Mexican woman risks her life to save her son by forcing a white American woman to drive them across the U.S./Mexican border. Here is our review of director and writer Ricardo Perez Selsky’s political thriller, Sin Fronteras.
Sin Fronteras translates from Spanish to ‘without borders’ and comes to us during a time of heightened feelings towards nationalism and illegal immigration. While Britain begins its own procedure of closing its borders to the rest of the EU with Brexit, President-elect Joe Biden must try to undo the damage caused by his predecessor across the US border.
At its most basic level, the story of Sin Fronteras has been done many times before but that doesn’t make this 12-minute short film any less important. It’s a story of class, race, hope, and desperation, where terrible decisions are made because that is the only choice some people have. It tells us that our enemies are not just the people who look a little different from us, they are also the people who look like us. Those we are told are our friends are sometimes the ones we need to be afraid of, while those we are told to fear are often our salvation. It’s a balancing act that boils down to some people are good, some people are bad, and it doesn’t matter who they are or what colour their skin is. Despite our cultural differences each one of us is exactly the same.
Filmed in El Centro, California, a few miles from the Mexican border, Sin Fronteras opens with a cry for togetherness and we are introduced to our two main protagonists, Elizabeth – a blonde-haired middle-class American wife played by Alexis Johnson, and Juliana – a poverty-stricken dark-haired Mexican mother brought to life by actor Amber Lee Ettinger. The script written by director Perez-Selsky lays on the symbolism and connections between the two of them pretty thickly. Having led completely different lives, both women find themselves in very similar circumstances. Both characters are of a similar age, both are desperate to change their lives, and both are trying to escape difficult marriages. The difference is one of them can simply walk away and leave of their own volition while the other has to fight every step of the way.
The cinematography of the film was done by Kyle Hartman and some of it is stunning. As Elizabeth and Juliana travel towards the border, the sweeping empty vistas of the Mexican dirt tracks and desert roads that lie before them just seem to go on forever. The grading gives a genuine dust bowl look to the entire short with the use of faded yellows and browns reminiscent of the old Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. After watching each scene, you feel like you have bits of dirt and dust in your mouth, in your hair, and all over your clothes. When you finish watching the film you will feel the need to have to brush yourself down. All of the performances are excellent, with the two leads the pick of the bunch; it’s unusual to see two strong female leads in any film let alone an independent short and, with regards to this often talked about aspect of film making, Sin Fronteras lays down a genuine marker. Both Johnson and Ettinger are credited as executive producers so hopefully the results of this film will lead the way for other female filmmakers.
The direction of Perez-Selsky is also first-class; not only does he garner great performances from his actors but he also manages to give us a real sense of time and place. Thelma and Louise is an obvious influence but Perez-Selsky is able to put his own original spin on things. My only criticism would be that the film doesn’t come across as powerful as it should do. There is an exciting set-piece to finish things off but once that is over things fall a little flat and there is no real emotional punch at the end. I wanted a little more oomph, but that still doesn’t stop me recommending Sin Fronteras with a full collection of five shiny stars. Excellent.