Look for this great Doc on Google. Chulas Fronteras (Beautiful Borders) is a hybrid-style music documentary that combines elements of observational cinema and other traditional techniques. It tells a story brimming with culturally relevant themes that — even in 2019 — are just as timely and significant as they were when acclaimed independent filmmaker Les Blank and co-director Chris Strachwitz shot it 43 years ago.
Chulas Fronteras may have only served as a celebration of the music genres that have impacted both sides of the Texas-Mexico border for generations (conjunto, Norteño, and other Tex-Mex regional and roots music) when first released (1976), but because of the current divisive political landscape, it’s now also an urgent reminder to Latinos nationwide that the traditions of our past can never be erased, appropriated or walled off without a fight. It’s in our blood.
Recently released as a 4K restoration, the bilingual documentary, which was selected for inclusion into the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress in 1993, is visually breathtaking in its new format. The crisp footage of musicians — Lydia Mendoza (also known as La Alondra de la Frontera), Mexico-based Los Alegres de Terán, Narciso Martínez, and living legend Flaco Jiménez — transforms Chulas Fronteras into a surreal experience; it’s like watching a concert film compiled of digitally remastered home videos.
Blank and his production team get up close and personal with the musicians, not only as they perform some of the most essential songs of their careers, but also capturing authentic, everyday moments. Moviegoers will be transfixed when the camera sits idly by as Mendoza prepares tamales with her family, Jiménez beams proudly watching his son play the accordion and Martinez tends to an orangutan during his day job at a Brownsville zoo.
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