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Screens City of death



Juarez is terminally ill, and the murders of 400 women are the symptom

In 1990, while driving in Mexico City, actor César Alejandro hit the brakes when the car in front of him suddenly stopped. Before he knew what was happening, a gun was placed to his head and he was forced into the back seat of his vehicle and driven around to ATM machines to withdraw money from his bank account.

"I was kidnapped," Alejandro told the Current during an interview for his new film, Juarez: Stages of Fear, which follows three story lines about the unsolved kidnappings and murders of the women and men of Juarez, Mexico. "My kidnapping was nothing compared to the ones in Juarez, but I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

Chris Penn, top left, plays a businessman kidnapped in Jaurez, Mexico. An image from the film's poster, center, pays tribute to the more than 400 women who have disappeared and/or been murdered in the border city. Bottom, a still from the film, in which an anonymous woman dreams of a better life north of the border.

Alejandro directed, wrote, produced, edited, and stars in the film. He says he wanted to portray the trauma of being kidnapped as an experience similar to dying. In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described five stages of grief experienced by terminally ill patients: Anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

"The whole City of Juarez is going through these stages," Alejandro said of the morale of a place where nearly 400 women have been murdered in the last 12 years. "`Stages of Fear` is a psychological study of a city with a chronic illness that keeps getting worse and is in desperate need of a cure."

The film, which also stars Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs), has opened in many cities across Texas, including El Paso, McAllen, Harlingen, Mission, Brownsville, Laredo, and Austin. It premiered in San Antonio December 16 at AMC's Huebner Oaks Theatre.

Although there are many theories about the motives behind the Juarez murders, including organ trafficking, religious-sect sacrifices, Mexican police corruption, and pornographic "snuff" films, Alejandro's film focuses on a single serial killer believed to be behind at least a third of all the Juarez murders. The hypothesis, Alejandro said, is supported by a number of criminologists.

Alejandro added that this is a critical time to see the film because of actions taken by the U.S. Congress in the past month. On November 2, the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere unanimously approved Congresswoman Hilda Solis' (D-CA) Resolution 90, condemning the Juarez murders and asking the U.S. government to work with the Mexican government to solve the cases and prevent further killings. The resolution has been sent to the full House Committee on International Relations for consideration. If approved, it will be placed on the calendar for review by the full House of Representatives.

"People need to see `Stages of Fear` and then call their senators and congressmen and tell them they want to support this `resolution`," Alejandro said. "We cannot condone border towns becoming whatever they want."

By Kiko Martinez

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