As the documentary ¡De Panzazo! explains, Mexico is the OECD member that spends the most on education in terms of public spending, yet its education system ranks last in terms of quality. ¡De Panzazo! (Barely Passing) director Juan Carlos Rulfo and producer Daniela Alatorre spoke with AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis after the film’s New York premiere on June 4 at Americas Society. With the support of civil society group Mexicanos Primero, the documentary calls for quality education and teacher evaluations in Mexico. Rulfo and Alatorre explain how they became involved in the project, involving Mexican students in the film’s production, the need to share best educational practices on an international level, and the impact of the film during a Mexican election year.
In the early 1980s, Oscar Torres (search) and the other boys in his neighborhood would clamber up to the corrugated tin roofs of their one-room shacks to hide from military officers, who forcibly recruited children as young as 12 years old to fight in El Salvador's civil war. Boys who did not become soldiers often fought for guerrilla forces.
"That was our daily life," recalls Torres, 34, who fled to the United States in 1984. "We didn't think it was anything extraordinary."
Two decades later, screenwriter Torres was initially reluctant when Mexican filmmaker Luis Mandoki encouraged him to co-write a script based on his war-torn childhood for the film "Innocent Voices," which is being released Friday in major U.S. cities.
"He asked me, 'Why me?'" said Mandoki. "But by the end he realized, 'It's not just about me.'"
Before the film's closing credits roll, statistics flash across the screen about child soldiers forced to fight for national militaries and rebel groups. Although more than 190 countries agree that a person legally becomes an adult at the age of 18, the United Nations estimates that 300,000 children under that age are engaged in as many as 30 conflicts around the globe, from Uganda to Colombia, from Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone.
"It's become like a global virus," said P.W. Singer, author of the book "Children of War" and national security fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
When the Taliban was in power, most of the women who filmed Afghanistan Unveiled could barely leave their homes, let alone study or work. But in 2002, the young documentarians - some still teenagers - traveled across mountains, rivers, and deserts to make the first film by and about Afghan women.
”Welcome to California,” says an undocumented Mexican lab worker after showing how to make the drug methamphetamine by mixing toxic chemicals over a burner in a dim, windowless shack.
The scene is from ”The Gatekeeper,” a drama tracing the experiences of a group of Mexicans who illegally cross the Tijuana-San Diego border. After arriving in the United States, the migrants are forced to work making the highly addictive street drug, also known as ”speed” or ”meth”, to pay off their passage.
Los Angeles, Miami, and San Diego have held Latino film festivals for years, attracting big-name stars as speakers. Even Providence celebrated its tenth in April, with Antonio Banderas in attendance at the festival's $125-per-person gala dinner. It takes a little longer for such high-powered events for Boston and Cambridge...