“Spring Breakers without Borders,” a Documentary From a Violent Mexico
Documentary Filmmaker Greg Berger Satirizes “the Toxic Policies” of the US Against Mexico
By Arturo Rodríguez Garcia Proceso magazine
April 25, 2011
The violence generated by narco-trafficking throughout almost all of the country has left visits from international tourists plummeting at alarming levels—above all from the famous spring breakers. This serves as a model for US documentary filmmaker Gregory Berger to use as a short form of satire about the “the toxic policies” of the United States against Mexico.
The short film Spring Breakers shows the violent situation that exists in Mexico and exposes the interests of the United States in the war against narco-trafficking.
Berger, a documentary filmmaker from New York who has been based in Mexico since the 1990s, takes fictitious information about US tourism in Mexico as a pretext: It is narrated by a supposed reporter through news reporting and interviews with tourists.
The starting point of the short film refers to the lack of international tourism with the onset of spring, when traditionally, tourist destinations are packed, and that today, with Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s war, they have stopped visiting the country.
It exposes the true story of some potters who were terrorized during a military raid, as well as interviews in which workers in the tourist industry lament the lack of visitors. It shows a supposed news report about a new form of tourism: “spring breakers without borders,” those who are fascinated violence and travel to narco-trafficking scenes.
“But there is one group of brave and strong tourists that aren’t afraid to vacation amid the violence. Actually, they are enjoying it,” says the supposed reporter while in the background dramatized images repeating the frenzied and orgiastic behavior of spring breakers are shown. They dance, drink, and play, while wearing T-shirts that say “Viva the War on Drugs cabrones.”
TV news clips show men who were hanged in Cuernavaca, narcobanners in Guadalajara, alleged drug trafficker “El Pozolero” declaring his indolence in chopping up bodies, a US TV host stating that violence is crossing over the border, and a declaration from Hillary Clinton in which she promises all the support that the Mexican government needs.
The reporter takes her location to outside of the building where Arturo Beltran Leyva, El Barbas, was gunned down in December 2009. Images of a desolate Cuernavaca are shown, while the reporter states that since 2006, when Calderón declared the drug war, he gave the military the task of policing, but with “with one small difference:” they don’t need an arrest warrant and can kill with impunity.
Meanwhile a group of “gringos” look happy, traveling to the building where El Barbas was killed:
“I love the war on drugs because my family has stock in Bell Helicopter,” says one of the spring breakers.
A text box notes that the U.S. government has allocated $600 million dollars for the war on drugs that favored, mainly, corporations with activities related to weapons.
“I love the war on drugs because my daddy owns a gun shop in Texas and now we’re freakin’ rich,” says another person.
Berger, who was about to leave for Egypt to collect the experiences of alternative filmmakers who contributed to the successful rebellion there, explains that, “We created this short with the intention of it reaching the people that are looking to travel to Mexico, people who are generally not very politicized, to bring to their attention what is happening on the matter of human rights.”
The filmmaker says that for years there have been groups dedicated to bringing tourists to social conflict zones like Chiapas or Oaxaca who found a market that has different intentions. Hence, on his website at www.gringoyo.com where he shows his productions, he has adopted the name “revolutionary tourist.”
It’s a market with different interests.
Berger makes fun of the tourists that come to support movements and end up harming them, like in the case of Brad Will, who died in Oaxaca and showed “a lack of discipline that ended his life and is harming the movement by giving the government arguments to accuse the APPO. ”
Although he says he believes in solidarity, he also notes that “revolutionary tourism” ends up screwing the movements. He gives an example of Egypt where an intervention from international anarchists who attacked soldiers in Tahrir square jeopardized the peaceful rebellion.
“Look at the EZLN or go to Chiapas and there is no risk, but the narco is scary. However, there is a morbid fascination,” he says. “In blogs and on US sites there are numerous cases of those who boast of having been to any violent destination in Mexico, talking as if they had been in Afghanistan.”
That “tourism noir” set the tone for Berger’s latest satire, a characteristic of almost all of his productions.
“I do satire to call attention to all of the toxic policies of the United States, my country,” he says, while taking a break from his next short, which will be called Narcomania and allude to the diplomatic cables revealed by the exposed leaks on WikiLeaks.
Berger notes that there is one type of very harmful US tourist that comes to Mexico: “Hillary Clinton and Carlos Pascual are the worse kind of tourist, those who come to Mexico, shit on the beach and leave a local unemployed girl with a venereal disease.”
That is what, in his view, happens with the promotion and exaggeration of the US government with the war declared by Calderón, which has increased human rights violations by 300 percent and left more than 35,000 dead. He says there is a clear interest in maintaining it, since the benefits are for the North American war industry.
“Who is celebrating the drug war in Mexico?” he asks.
“They are the spring breakers without borders. To find them, you just have to follow the money trail.”