Film and Media Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

FAMS Visiting Filmmakers Series: Reportero and Bernardo Ruiz on 10 April 6pm, Meese Conference Room, Mason Hall

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Rescheduled: Reportero and director Bernardo Ruiz will be at GMU on 10 April 2013, 6pm: Meese Conference Room, Mason Hall (MH D023)

Reportero follows veteran reporter Sergio Haro and his colleagues at Zeta, a Tijuana-based independent newsweekly, as they stubbornly ply their trade in one of the deadliest places in the world for the media. In Mexico, more than 50 journalists have been slain or have vanished since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderón came to power and launched a government offensive against the country’s powerful drug cartels and organized crime groups. As the drug war intensifies and the risks to journalists become greater, will the free press be silenced?

In 1980, the Mexican media didn't look favorably upon reporters like Jesús Blancornelas who challenged the party line. After being fired by five newspapers, Blancornelas took matters into his own hands, founding Zeta and initially managing it from the United States. The paper, owned by journalists, attracted other talented journalists, including Sergio Haro, who first joined as a photographer in 1987.

Héctor Félix Miranda, Zeta's co-founder, became one of its most popular columnists, writing humorously about the foibles of Mexico's politicians and social elite, using tips from readers happy to see these once-untouchable figures brought down to earth. "My work in Zeta is proof that freedom of expression exists in Mexico," said Miranda. "That others don't practice it is their own fault." It was assumed there would be some pushback, but what happened was horrific and unexpected: On April 20, 1988, Miranda was shot dead by thugs who worked for Jorge Hank, son of one of Mexico's most powerful families. Hank was never investigated and would later be elected mayor of Tijuana.

Gradually, the government's hold over the media loosened. But Zeta was developing a far more deadly enemy. By the early 1990s, drug trafficking was becoming a major industry along Mexico's border with the United States. Cartels generated huge sums of money and used it to fund lavish lifestyles, recruit a revolving network of dealers and pay off police and government officials. The drug gangs' violent rule enveloped the entire border region.

"So much of the news coverage about the US-Mexico border was so decontextualized," Ruiz tells the International Documentary Association. "It's what I call ‘vulture journalism' -- bodies in the street and the decapitations and the shootouts -- but there was no context. I just found it astonishing that even reputable media outlets were just doing slapdash coverage of the war next door. It continues to this day." Reportero takes up this question, of who reports what and how, exposing the effects of violence and also the tolls of covering it. 

Bernardo Ruiz is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico. He is the director/producer of American Experience: Roberto Clemente (PBS, 2008), winner of the ALMA Award for Outstanding Made for Television Documentary. He is the co-producer of The Sixth Section (P.O.V.), winner of the top short documentary prize at the 2003 Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico. He has also directed programs for PBS, MTV, the Discovery Networks, Travel Channel, Planet Green and the National Geographic Channel. In 2007, he founded Quiet Pictures in order to produce aesthetically innovative and socially relevant documentary films for all platforms.

Bernardo Ruiz will be available after the screening for a Q&A. The event is free and open to the public. 

Reportero and Bernardo Ruiz at George Mason University is sponsored by the Film & Media Studies Program, and cosponsored by African & African American Studies, Communication, Cultural Studies, Film & Video Studies, Global Interdisciplinary Programs, Global Studies Abroad, Human Rights & Global Justice Working Group, Latin American Studies, Sociology & Anthropology, and University Life.

For more information, please contact Cynthia Fuchs | gmufams@gmail.com | 703-993-2768 

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