Article by Alexei Spindell
January 10, 2022
Tijuana is often overlooked by Mexicans and Americans alike as the rich cultural destination that it is – a subject explored by Feliz Año Tijuana, a film which follows the story of a man’s discovery of this city on the night of New Year’s Eve. The film premieres on January 15th at the Centro Cultural de Tijuana’s (CECUT) “Cineteca”, which lies a mere eight minutes from the border and presents an apt occasion for San Diegans to consider crossing for the event. The event includes a Q&A and reception.
Actor and independent film producer Luis Deveze plays Alejandro, an American professor of Chicano Studies from Central Mexico who is left stranded in Tijuana after missing a flight.
“This is a guy who is not familiar with Tijuana and has been away from Mexico for many years,” states Deveze. “It’s like a discovery for him – a discovery of Tijuana and rediscovery of Mexican culture.”
While at first apprehensive and beset with loneliness, paranoia, and religious dread, the city sweeps him into an adventure of awakening. The film’s exceptional authenticity is displayed through the fact that it’s not only largely improvised by its actors, but also involves real encounters with Tijuana citizens on the very night it’s meant to portray.
“There are things I wanted to say, and things that Mexicans in Tijuana wanted to say, and we pretty much opened the mic to an array of actors,” says Luis. The film provides a voice to a largely unheard city, exposing peculiarities like that of the extreme differences between the two sides of the border. In Tijuana, the border is integrated into the community, full of art and nearby residences, while the American side is isolated, militarized, and relatively lifeless. As a Chicano Studies professor, Alejandro – even amidst the partying – finds the opportunity to educate both Mexicans and Americans on the matter. “In Mexico there’s an ignorance of Chicano issues,” adds Luis, “just as there is an ignorance of Mexico in America.”
Working with director Andrew Van Baal, Luis channels inspiration from the French Cinema Verite style of Jean-Luc Godard, known for directing feature films with minimal resources using real locations. While following in this fashion, nothing in Feliz Año Tijuana seems accidental or out of place, and there is much in the film that seems to surpass that which could have been made by design – the actual making of the film could be seen just as fortuitous as its story-line.
The venue is easy to find, as the CECUT is not only a stunning landmark but serves as the cultural heart of Tijuana. Luis recommends setting aside some time to explore and have dinner in the area.
“If you have the time, have a nice dinner in T.J., if not, just come watch the movie. It’s eight minutes from the border. Try the experience of crossing. If you haven’t been to Tijuana or Mexico, just do it, do it once. Don’t let people tell you about it.”