Life in Zona Norte

Posted in Documentary Films, Michael Hemmingson, Tijuana, Zona Norte on April 24, 2009 by zonanorte09

This a tad rough, will smooth out the transitions…



Posted in Documentary Films, Tijuana, Zona Norte on April 22, 2009 by zonanorte09

This working on final edit.

Hidden Camera in the Hong Kong Club

Posted in Tijuana, Zona Norte with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2009 by zonanorte09

Here is a curious YouTube vid in the Hong Kong Club, my preferred Zona Norte bar to hang out at.  Seems to be some guy’s drunk girlfriend hopping on stage with the dancers, which I have seen before.  I have seen a few American women working in the club, or the adjacent Miami Club (not sure what arrangement they make with owners).  I’ve also seen couples in the Hong Kong get lap dances together.

Shooting Day in Zona Norte

Posted in Documentary Films, Tijuana, Zona Norte with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2009 by zonanorte09

tj-schoolgirlsThe title of this post does not have a double meaning.

The pic to the left isnot not from the doc (have not processed stills yet) but borrowed from the blog Tijuana Reader, who have commented on the making of this doc. The pic is similar to the reaction we got from the women: they turned their heads and bodies, not wanting their faces to be filmed. Tijuana Reader is what is known as  a “whoremonger site” — that is, a space where men write about their experiences in sex trade areas, in this case Zona Norte, recommend clubs or certain women, warn about bad experiences or scams; all-in-all, such sites were informatative for when I began my initial research in 2006. They also offer tours, which seems like a good idea for those new to ZN; I may take one just to see what it’s like, though I have acted as a “guide” begfore to a couple Americans (who bought me beers, food, and dances).

 As explained earlier in this blog the documenatary is not just about the women working the sex trade in ZN, but all the people making a living in the red light district: the club barker, the taco stand guy (and gal), the shoeshone guy, the amateur mariachi players…together, they form the culture in the area, and rely on each other to make a living; that is, the “johns” who go there also buy food, tip waiters, and get their shoes shined.  The guy who shined my shoes and gave me an interview said, “Dudes come down here just to get their shoes shined.”  I was going to get a haircut from the barber there but I didn’t want our federale minder to stand around and make the barber nervous. 

Yesterday, April 14, we shot our footage for the documentary project:

Life in Zona Norte.

Some things were last minute, such as the Mexican Counsel of San Diego arranging for security.  We had two officers from the State, federales, with us.  Both were young and nice fellows who spoke good English.  I am so glad and grateful we had them, because we would have probably run into some problems.

(I believe there was a third watcher, that I noticed shadowing us.)

We walked up and down the streets of the red light zone: lower Constitucion, Aticulo 123, La Choulia, Los Ninos Heroes.  It was a quiet da, not many women were out — but it was early afteroon and a Tuesday, and it was a cloudy cold day.  In fact, all of Tijuana was like a ghost town.  people kept calling us “paparazzi.”  We waled toward Zona Norte.  Our security guys wanted to pick us up at the border but I told them to meet us at the police substation in Zona Norte.

We got some good footage of kids selling chiclets, and when I found the mariachi players, some did not want to play or be filmed. I offred $20 to three guys and they agreed (a song usually costs $5).  They were not that good, and one guy only had four strings on his guitar, but they were okay enough.  I didn’t want the film the guys in the black tux suits, I wanted the older guys in cowboy hats.

I had a bad feeling, as we were drawing the wrong kind of attention, people knew I had money, and we did not have our security with us,  so we took a cab down to where our security detail was wating.

The prostitutes would not look at the camera.  They were miffed. They did not want to be on film.

Here is the kicker: I was always told it was “illegal” to film las parditas; two years ago I had my digital camera stolen by the police, one of them punched me in the stomach, and I had to pay $120 not to get arrested.  Others have been told the same. However, our federale handler told is it was not illegal, that we were free to film anything we wanted in pubic, just not inside the clubs since it was private property.

So was it being “illegal” a ruse by the TJ cops to extort money, or were we given a PR spin on “freedom of press”?

Some other guy has a blog and he was told by TJ police he could not take photos to protect the women’s privacy…but the fact is, these women do not want to be filmed because 1) the social stigma and 2) their families and friends do not know what they do — most of them do not live in TJ, they come from different states or cities in Mexico, work a week or two, make money, and go home, telling their families that they are working as waitresses or whatever.  A few dancers in the Hong Kong Club told me this before: most of them have a kid or two and no husband (either dead, in jail, or an American that left them); they leave their children with parents….

Also, a third reason is that some of them are not out there by free will, an are minded by pimps who are watching them. I have seen the pimops before, who watch from windows in second story rooms.  Under age prostitutes are seldom on the streets for eyes, they are in specal motels

(One time, a man offered me a young girl playing an accordion. The man was her father, I think. Another time, an old woman offered me her granddaughter for a price — this was in 2006-7 during my research for my ethnography.)

When we entered Mexico, a guy saw us filing and he said, “Here you giveup your civil rights…past the other gates, you give up your human rights.”  (We may or may not put that in the doc.)

Some of the streetwalkers yelled at us — if we did not have a federale with us, they may have attacked us.  One girl threw a soda at us and almost got arrested.

Other folks did not seem to mind, like the club barkers, one woman who got “things” for people (I paid her some money for an interview), the taco stand guys, the shoe shine guy — who talked a lot.  On prostitution: “It doesn’t hurt anyone.”

All in all, a good shoot. We got some good stuff.  We were driven to the border, la linea.

We should have the film edited next week.  We were given a few more minutes to the limited time, since a couple projects backed out.

Sneak Peek

Posted in Documentary Films, Tijuana, Zona Norte on April 15, 2009 by zonanorte09


Posted in Documentary Films, Tijuana, Zona Norte with tags , , , , on April 14, 2009 by zonanorte09

maricahiWe’re filimng today, as we are on the wire and behind schedule to get this in to the prodco for Cannes next month.

We’re supposed to have an escort from the Baja Cali Stae Troopers, to make sure we don’t run into any trouble with the locals, both local cops, federales, army, crooks, cartels, etc.

I don’t expect any trouble, as we will be in and out within 2-3 hours, and I know what I want, and we already have some good intro footage.  But, as I have learned the past couple years resarching down there, it’s always best to be safe…

I hope the “escort” is not a “minder” who will tell us what we can andc cannot shoot…

I was hoping to interview the American women who street walk there, as Mexican law would not apply to them, but they only come out at night, and are more rare down there these days.

There’s a barber in Zona Norte I may get a haircut from, and shoot that. Best $5 hair cuts in all of Mexico!


Posted in Documentary Films, Tijuana, Zona Norte with tags , on April 12, 2009 by zonanorte09

Apparently my emails and letters did not get through. Not sure what happened — email addy was correct.

The Counsel wants to meet Monday afternoon.