Mexicans Give 'Traffic' Thumbs Down 

Mexicans Give 'Traffic' Thumbs Down 
Posted by FoM on March 25, 2001 at 09:47:44 PT
By Sandra Dibble, Staff Writer 
Source: Union-Tribune
For millions of moviegoers worldwide, "Traffic" may just be the latest Hollywood blockbuster, one to watch closely at tonight's Academy Awards ceremony. But the movie's tale of drugs and corruption on the U.S.-Mexico border has hit close to home."The topic was good, it was something real," said René Valdés, a 33-year-old civil engineer, emerging from the movie one night last week in the city's Río Zone.
Since "Traffic's" March 16 release in Mexico, interest has been high, drawing more than 300,000 viewers to 250 screens nationwide in its first six days, according to its Mexican distributor. Residents of Tijuana have special reason to watch: The movie features actor Benicio del Toro as a state police officer from their city.Showings were quickly selling out Wednesday at the 14-screen Cinepolis Multicinema at the Plaza Río Tijuana. Moviegoers streaming into the parking lot offered a range of reactions."It may be negative, but it's our reality, isn't it?" said Elvira Rodríguez, 28, an international trade student."Tijuana's not this way," said Julio González, 37, a Tijuana-born businessman. "I just wish they would show the nice side of Tijuana as well."Inspired by a 1990 British television miniseries about heroin trafficking in Asia and Europe, "Traffic" tells three parallel stories set in the United States and Mexico.One story line follows the U.S. anti-drug czar's daughter who snorts cocaine with friends from her Cincinnati prep school. Another tells of a wealthy La Jolla businessman who imports drugs from Mexico. The third focuses on Javier Rodríguez Rodríguez, a state police officer increasingly drawn into the violent and corrupt world of the illicit drug trade.Tijuana is an apt setting for the officer's story. The city is the headquarters of the Arellano Félix drug cartel, and residents have been besieged in recent years by everything from brazen drug-related killings to petty crime perpetrated by drug addicts.Some Tijuana viewers said the movie offers an astonishingly accurate reflection of the problems that drug trafficking creates on the border. Others were glad to see a film that doesn't simply point the finger at corruption in Mexico but is also willing to look at the huge demand for drugs in the United States.Jorge Luna, a 29-year-old lawyer, had mixed feelings. "I don't like how they portray Tijuana's ugliest side. But I think it's positive that they show it's not just a question of fighting drug trafficking with force. You have to fight demand."Tijuana's daily newspaper, Frontera, gave "Traffic" 31/2 stars, though its opinion columns have been more critical.José Santiago Healy, the newspaper's publisher, recommended the film. But "one perceives a discriminatory tendency toward Mexico and toward minorities," he wrote. "The corruption of Mexican authorities, including a military general, is almost complete, whereas on the U.S. side, you don't see a single authority directly involved."And Frontera columnist Ángel Norzagaray, an actor and theater director, lambasted the film as superficial and riddled with cliches. " 'Traffic' remains a movie permeated with the genial paternalism of Uncle Sam and his acute hypocrisy," he wrote.Sensitivity runs high among some Tijuana residents who want to protect the city's image. Last week, one group was so angered at the depiction of their city that its members decided to take action.The Grupo Político Lázaro Cárdenas will demand that local movie theaters refrain from showing "Traffic." The group also plans to press the city government to sue the filmmakers for their misuse of the city's name.They're not likely to get very far.Four years ago, following the Mexican television giant Televisa's plan to set a story about illegal immigration in Tijuana, City Hall sought a copyright to protect the city's name. But Mexico's copyright office said that wouldn't curb the freedom of producers and writers to say what they want about the city.The movie is stirring much discussion about a problem that plagues the city and whose solution often seems beyond its grasp."I think the (movie's) message is very clear that the problem is the addiction, and that the great majority of addicts and the purchasing power is in the United States," said Héctor Osuna Jaime, a federal senator from Baja California and member of the National Action Party.Six years ago, Tijuana's police chief was gunned down along with a bodyguard in a hit attributed to drug dealers. Last year, a second Tijuana police chief was shot to death. The investigation led to members of his department, hired by a drug lord from the state of Sinaloa. Some fled, others are awaiting the outcome of their trial."We're living through a period very similar to what the United States went through during Prohibition in the 1920s," the senator said. "Institutions are becoming severely damaged by the corruptive power of drug trafficking."For Tijuana viewers, some of the shots seem familiar but a bit off. The opening scene, supposedly in the desert near Tijuana, looks as though it was filmed across the state, near the state capital, Mexicali. It was actually set in the New Mexico desert.Virtually all of the urban Tijuana scenes in "Traffic" were filmed in Nogales, Sonora, just south of Arizona. Producers said logistics and scheduling caused them to forgo Tijuana.While the settings may be a little off, many of the movie's fictional characters will seem very familiar to Mexican audiences.One character, Gen. Salazar, pretends to lead a fight against Mexican traffickers but in fact is defending the interests of one of the organizations. His role is clearly inspired by the Mexican anti-drug czar, Gen. Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, now serving time for protecting the Juarez cartel.But the real general's daughter, Teresa Gutiérrez, saw no similarity to her father when she attended a Mexico City premiere of the film earlier this month. "The only thing that this shows," she said, "is the extreme to which an individual can be satanized, without getting to the bottom and really investigating what is happening."In Tijuana, many moviegoers weren't disputing such harsh depictions of their law enforcement officials and the fight against drug trafficking. But some wished that someday the world will have a different, more rounded impression of their city." 'Traffic' reflects a certain reality, but not everything," said Tijuana-born Leonardo Sánchez Barajas, a 21-year-old accounting student. "I don't experience Tijuana the way it's depicted in the movie."Complete Title: Mexicans Give 'Traffic' Thumbs Down for Its Portrayal of TijuanaSource: San Diego Union Tribune (CA) Author: Sandra Dibble, Staff Writer Published: March 25, 2001Copyright: 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co. Address: PO Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191 Fax: (619) 293-1440 Contact: letters Website: Related Articles & Web Site:Traffic Official Web Site'Traffic' has D.C. All Abuzz Reality Behind the Movie Traffic - Nightline Articles - Traffic 
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