by Jeffrey Chen
Marking the first time the documentary has been shown at NYU, Professor Juana Suarez introduced a screening of Señorita Extraviada (Lourdes Portillo, 2001) with filmmaker Lourdes Portillo. The movie chronicles the abductions of young, Mexican women that began around the mid-1990s.
The project started in 1999 shortly after the director read a news article about a number of unexplained disappearances in Mexico’s northern state of Chihuahua. Compelled to learn more about the situation, she traveled to the border city of Juarez and talked with members of the community over a period of 18 months. In order to gain support for her cause, she approached several organizations, such as human rights groups, that were connected with friends and families of the victims. Although many declined her request for an interview due to safety concerns, she was able to convince several contacts to entrust their stories to her.
The film unfolds like a police procedural, as the filmmaker interviews subjects and dissects news coverage of the incidents, analyzing a list of possible suspects. Although there is no definitive conclusion to the cases, the evidence strongly suggests that the world of organized crime played a significant role in the mysterious kidnappings.
Despite being released over a decade ago, the problems described in Señorita Extraviada are still relevant. Mexico continues to struggle with corruption, drug trafficking, and other issues that adversely affect the lives of its citizens. Fortunately, filmmakers like Lourdes Portillo exist to allow their voices to be heard.
by Jeffrey Chen