Maquilapolis codirector Vicky Funari has a limited but impressive pedigree when it comes to documenting the lives of women on the fringes of society. Her first film, Paulina, told the story of an eight-year-old Mexican girl (who, as a woman, worked as a maid to Funari and her mother in Mexico City) who was mistakenly assumed to have been raped, and the horrors she lived through as a result of that misunderstanding. Funari’s second feature, Live Nude Girls Unite! detailed the efforts of strippers in a San Francisco peep show to unionize. Both works received strong reviews despite their limited exposure, so it comes as no surprise that Maquilapolis, is as sneakily accomplished as it is.
Maquilapolis takes Funari, along with her directing partner, artist-photographer Sergio De La Torre, back to Mexico, specifically to Tijuana, where foreign factories -- mequiladoras -- are packed shoulder to shoulder, having come to take advantage of cheap labor and low taxes. The great majority of the workers in the factories are women, both because they have small, agile hands, and because they’re assumed to be more “docile” than men. Needless to say, none of the women in Maquilapolis are docile. They are “promotoras,” -- leaders -- workers who are self-selected as the ones who are willing to speak up when change is necessary. Trained in a six-week class to use digital video cameras, and about the basic principles of documentary storytelling, the subjects of Maquilapolis are instrumental in telling their own stories, whether it’s through interviews, confessions to their cameras, or by simply narrating the horrors those cameras record.