University of Arizona

Another Side of the Border

A screening of the UA student-produced documentary

Image of Another Side of the Border - documentary

"Another Side of the Border" is not your typical borderlands exposé. Produced by UA students Curtis Prendergast, Austin Counts and Kristen Boele, this 30-minute documentary film examines borderlands issues that are often overshadowed, emphasizing the social, cultural and economic interchange between the deeply intertwined states of Arizona and Sonora.

Relying on primary source materials from Special Collections at the University Libraries, the film received two awards at the 2010 UA Graduate Student Showcase.

According to Curtis Prendergast, a graduate student in the School of Journalism and one of the film’s producers, border issues such as illegal immigration and drug smuggling receive a lot of attention but “there’s just so much more going on here.” Prendergast says the film strives “to examine the different layers of a once cohesive region and portray the historical relationship between the two states.”

Luis Coronado, a Ph.D. candidate in the UA Department of History, the primary researcher of the film’s historical content, and a native of San Luis Potosi, adds, “Coming from a Mexican perspective, I see value in portraying in a positive way the relationship that is so specific to Arizona and Sonora, the ongoing relationship of social and cultural integration.” As becomes clear in the film, one key to recognizing the ongoing relationship between different states within the greater Sonoran territory is to establish the historical context of the region. Notably, this student-created video documentary culminated from a graduate-level journalism class that teaches students to do just that.

“Reporting in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands,” is an innovative class taught by Celeste González de Bustamante, a professor in the School of Journalism who has brought to the UA extensive experience as a reporter and anchor covering the U.S.-Mexico border. Partially funded by Title VI funds from the U.S. Department of Education through the UA Center for Latin American Studies, this class was designed to produce a 30-minute documentary film that would foster a greater understanding of the region and its history, as a way of contextualizing today’s most pressing border issues.

Bringing together students of history, journalism, Latin American studies, and media arts, this 10-month project also emphasized the importance of collaboration, not only between individuals, but university departments. Special Collections, an essential campus partner in the achievement of student learning outcomes, contributed both the primary source material and the expertise of its librarians in support of this student project.  

Librarian Verónica Reyes-Escudero worked closely with Professor González de Bustamante to introduce the class to the often intimidating process of archival research. “Our goal is to equip students with the knowledge of why, when, and how to use archival material,” states Reyes-Escudero. Echoing that sentiment, Professor González de Bustamante says, “Requiring students to use the archives in their work helps them develop research skills that they will use far beyond the classroom, in their future careers.”

Prendergast also recognizes the value of incorporating primary source material into the research process. “Any serious program on any social issues should have a historical background and offer historical facts directly from primary sources,” he states. “Very few articles offer a historical perspective, and we wanted to provide greater depth to accounts of the border. We created this documentary because we want people to really look at these issues, to spend some time thinking about them, rather than just reading a little bit here and there.”

The School of Journalism encourages students to investigate beyond the surface, to dig deeper than the obvious story—“incorporating history and archival documents into their work enables them to do just that.” González de Bustamante adds, “Even a short visit to Special Collections will give students a better understanding of Arizona-Sonora, the region in which they live and study. The UA Special Collections and especially the Southwest/Borderlands Collections are a valuable resource, critical for student learning.”

The documentary “Another Side of the Border” is also available for viewing online at The Sonoran Chronicle.

Related event
On Tuesday, Dec. 7 from 11:00 a.m. – noon in the Main Library, Celeste González de Bustamante, Professor, UA School of Journalism, will take part in the University Libraries’ Tuesday Talks colloquium, examining media coverage of SB 1070 in a lecture titled "Keeping it real along the U.S.-Mexico border: challenges and struggles in the midst of Arizona's firestorm."

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