Editing, Visits, and Fresh Planning
We have surfaced!
After a semester with Katy abroad in southern Mexico and myself completing a final full-time semester in D.C., we have started the serious work of shaping our summer footage into workable documentary films.
Ultimately, hopefully by early summertime, we hope to have three vignettes from our some 40 hours of interviews and desert scenery. When looking at the scope of our footage, it seemed too limiting to go with a more traditional narrative structure of an hour to an hour and a half, and so we both settled (independent of one another) on the notion of creating connected thematic films exploring life in colonias that would be able to be more inclusive of the broad spectrum of human experience that we had the privilege of engaging during our summer months.
The editing process.
The first stage, which is thankfully pulling to a close, is referred to as subclipping — breaking up the long clips into manageable shorter clips of 30 seconds to a minute or two, well-labeled, so that all of our footage is organized and easily re-arrangeable. It is a helpful, if tedious, process in which we can get a very thorough sense of what material we have and therefore what would be the best way to arrange it.
Our second stage took place largely over the final week of winter vacation when Katy and I returned to El Paso to visit our friends as well as to share some of the highlights of their footage. Toting around our laptop and external hard drives, we did house visit upon house visit, which were all very humbling and wonderful experiences. It was a joy to be welcomed back into everyone’s home. We got fully updated: changes in local politics, work-related injuries, vacation photographs, new batches of puppies, advancements in community campaigns, and often sobering reports of the continually escalating violence in Ciudad Juárez.
There were generally two elements to each visit, both in the U.S. and in Mexico: First, the food, the chatting, the hugs, the stories and chistes (witness the epic cooking session we had with Dolores! very serious.)
The second was pulling out our laptop and hard drives, often in homes without electricity, and going through the footage highlights that we had prepared for each visit. It was an incredibly affirming experience: community partners looked on with curiosity and usually with kind of an embarrassed smile on their face, asking about the software and how it worked, and ultimately looking content with their stories, their faces, and their homes. We got a lot of green lights and good feedback on our plans for making vignettes in the coming year.
Perhaps one of the most moving visits was to Lomas del Poleo, just outside of Juárez. We were fortunate enough to visit the Mexican city on the Día de los Reyes Magos, a much-celebrated holiday that involves a cake in which small plastic figures are embedded. If you are so (un)fortunate as to bite into one of the small dolls, then you’re required to make tamales for everyone in February. After a lot of delicious food, prepared by Luci, we sat around her wooden table, lit by kerosene lamps, and flipped through footage of each of the interviews. One younger child, squirming in the quiet of the rapt attention with which everyone considered the videos, pointed and grinned when his mother appeared. Just in case no one noticed, he commented loudly to her that she was on the screen. We were also able to get fully updated on the current status of the struggle in Lomas, and got some short interviews with the residents in the dying evening light.
The coming semester.
In addition to updates on our three vignettes and conversations with community partners, I have the pleasure of doing an independent study on documentary history & practice for the semester, and thus may integrate reflections on this research from time to time. We will both continue to contribute, and will do our best to upload some tastes of our editing process to the Vimeo site as well as sometimes to the Paso del Sur YouTube account, which hosts videos about Lomas del Poleo.