The University of Arizona

Special Collections to Screen U.S.-Mexico Border Documentary

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications | December 3, 2010

While taking a course on borderlands issues in the School of Journalism, Curtis Prendergast, Austin Counts and Kirsten Boele produced a documentary film that will be screened at the UA on Wednesday, Dec. 8.

A team of UA student producers relied on primary-source materials from Special Collections at the UA Libraries for a documentary film that examines borderlands issues that are often overshadowed, emphasizing the social, cultural and economic interchange between the deeply intertwined states of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.
A team of UA student producers relied on primary-source materials from Special Collections at the UA Libraries for a documentary film that examines borderlands issues that are often overshadowed, emphasizing the social, cultural and economic interchange between the deeply intertwined states of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

“Another Side of the Border” is not your typical borderlands exposé.

Initiated in January and produced by University of Arizona students Curtis Prendergast, Austin Counts and Kirsten Boele, the film strives “to examine the different layers of a once cohesive region and portray the historical relationship between the two states," said Prendergast, a graduate student in the UA School of Journalism. 

The film was produced as part of a class aimed at giving students a more comprehensive understanding of borderlands issues while involving them in film production. 

The UA's Special Collections is hosting a screening of the trio's documentary on Wednesday, Dec. 8, from 3:30-5 p.m. to be followed by a moderated discussion and an open question-and-answer session with the producers. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Main Library, 1510 E. University Blvd.

"Coming from a Mexican perspective, I see value in portraying in a positive way the relationship that is so specific to Arizona and Sonora, the ongoing relationship of social and cultural integration," said Luis Coronado, a doctoral candidate in the UA's history department. Coronado, a native of San Luis Potosi in Mexico, served as the primary researcher of the film’s historical content.  

The film recently received two awards at the 2010 UA  Graduate and Professional Student Council's student showcase

In advance of the screening, Special Collections also is hosting a Tuesday, Dec. 7, talk with Celeste González de Bustamante, a professor in the UA  School of Journalism who taught the course. She will speak about media coverage of Senate Bill 1070.

González de Bustamante will present her lecture, "Keeping it Real Along the U.S.-Mexico Border: Challenges and Struggles in the Midst of Arizona's Firestorm," at 11 a.m. at the Main Library. It's part of the UA Libraries’ Tuesday Talks series. 

One key to recognizing the ongoing relationship among  different states within the greater Sonoran territory is to establish the historical context of the region. Notably, the students' documentary culminated from González de Bustamante's graduate-level journalism class, “Reporting in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands," which encourages students to do just that.

Partially funded by Title VI funds from the U.S. Department of Education through the UA Center for Latin American Studies, the class was designed in a way that students could produce a documentary to foster a greater understanding of the region and its history, as a way of contextualizing today’s most pressing border issues.

Bringing together students of history, journalism, Latin American studies and media arts, the 10-month project also emphasized the importance of collaboration, not only among individuals, but University departments.

In teaching the course, González de Bustamante relies on her extensive experience as a reporter and anchor covering the U.S.-Mexico border. She encourages students to utilize UA resources and archival documents to further contextualize their work. 

“Even a short visit to Special Collections will give students a better understanding of Arizona-Sonora, the region in which they live and study," she said. 

"The UA Special Collections and especially the Southwest/Borderlands Collections are a valuable resource, critical for student learning," she added. 

Prendergast, a graduate student in journalism along with Boele and one of the film’s producers, said border issues, such as illegal immigration and drug smuggling, receive much attention. However, “there’s just so much more going on here," he added.

Special Collections contributed both the primary source material and the expertise of its librarians in support of the project. 

Librarian Verónica Reyes-Escudero worked closely with González de Bustamante to introduce the class to the often intimidating process of archival research.

“Our goal is to equip students with the knowledge of why, when and how to use archival material,” Reyes-Escudero said.

González de Bustamante said she believed the same to be true. “Requiring students to use the archives in their work helps them develop research skills that they will use far beyond the classroom, in their future careers." 

Prendergast said he also recognizes the value of incorporating primary source material into the research process.

“Any serious program on any social issues should have a historical background and offer historical facts directly from primary sources,” he said.

“Very few articles offer a historical perspective, and we wanted to provide greater depth to accounts of the border," Prendergast added. "We created this documentary because we want people to really look at these issues, to spend some time thinking about them, rather than just reading a little bit here and there.”

Contacts

Gabrielle Sykes-Casavant

University of Arizona Libraries 

520-307-0877

sykes-casavantg@u.library.arizona.edu