San Diego

Filmmaker Aims to Give Face to Asylum-Seeking Migrants in New Documentary

"At the end of the day, we're all just human beings," filmmaker says on why people should see "Stuck in Tijuana"

When filmmaker Charlie Minn saw what he calls the "dire situation" Central American migrants were facing -- first in fleeing violence in their home countries and again as refugees in Tijuana, Mexico -- he saw an issue worth covering. 

"It’s a horrifying situation that really needs more focus," Minn said and that's exactly what his latest documentary, "Stuck in Tijuana," aimed to do. 

The film, about a caravan of thousands of migrants that departed Central America in mid-October en route to the U.S.-Mexico border, premieres locally at the Theatre Box in downtown San Diego on Friday for a limited run. 

In it, Minn sets out to humanize what has been declared a humanitarian crisis by Tijuana's Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum. 

The documentarian, who has released films centered around Tijuana, immigration and San Diego in the past, including a documentary on the 1984 McDonald's massacre, says his goal is to tell "victim-driven" stories. 

"I almost feel as if [the migrants] have been victimized twice -- once in their homeland and again now, a lot of them being stuck in different parts of Mexico," Minn said. 

Minn believes President Donald Trump's rhetoric on migrants has led to their victimization. 

"I really do think that because Trump started talking about, obviously the wall, metering, 'remain in Mexico', I think you saw more and more news coverage and it started a snowball effect."

"Stuck in Tijuana" will feature video of a violent confrontation on Nov. 25, 2018 between migrants on the Tijuana side of the border and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents in San Ysidro, California. 

On that day, hundreds of migrants were protesting the United States' slow asylum-seeking process near the border when a handful attempted to rush the fencing separating the two countries. In response to the breach, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents fired tear gas across the border.

Children screamed and coughed. Fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were hundreds of feet away.

Minn and his crew were embedded with the protesters and captured the action from the ground. 

"We were there when they stormed the international border and made a couple of high-profile attempts," Minn said.

Mexico's Interior Ministry said around 500 migrants tried to "violently" enter the U.S., though Tijuana Police arrested less than 40 people and turned them over to Mexico's National Institute of Migration.

At the time, more than 5,000 migrants had spent several weeks camping in tents in Tijuana, Mexico, awaiting their chance to request asylum at the San Ysidro port of Entry, where requests were being processed in numbers fewer than 100 a day. 

Minn said the way the events unfolded wasn't the right way for migrants to bring awareness to their plight but said underneath the clash, they were only asking for a chance. 

"I try to put myself in their shoes, Minn said. "I think all of us have asked for a chance at one point or another -- whether it’s a job, whether it’s a school that we want to enter, whether its a career, relationship." 

He urges San Diegans also to put themselves in these migrants' shoes.

"We don’t have to think about 'Do we walk 3,000 miles just to get to a better life,'" he said. "So we should all appreciate what we have and just for a minute try to empathize with these people. Because at the end of the day, we're all just human beings."

Minn's will hold a Q-and-A session following the premiere of "Stuck in Tijuana" at the Theatre Box located at 701 5th Avenue, San Diego.

Tickets for the film's limited run can be purchased through Fandango or at the box office and will screen at 12:15, 2:30, 4:45, 7 and 9:15 p.m.

A discount will be offered to those that purchase tickets in person. 

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