Border-crossing pic finds dose of reality

'Norteado' director calls Toronto screening 'ironic'

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TORONTO -- Mexican director Rigoberto Perezcano is scratching his head after receiving a big "buenos dias" from Toronto International Film Festival audiences, and being branded no amigo by the Canadian government.

"It's ironic to present my film in a country that asks for a visa," Perezcano said Saturday after his debut feature, the Mexican immigration drama "Norteado" (Northless), had its world premiere in Toronto.

The Mexican-Spanish film, which is moving on next week to compete at the San Sebastian Film Festival for the best new director award, portrays a a young Mexican farmer making persistent attempts to cross over the U.S.-Mexican border wall at the Tijuana border.

The director pointed to the Canadian government decision in July to impose a visa requirement on Mexican visitors to Canada as a hindrance as he brought his border crossing drama to Toronto.

Perezcano said his Toronto audience on Saturday embraced his Mexican drama, and asked probing questions during the Q&A after the screening, while the federal government was "closing the door to our (Mexican) culture."

"Norteado" producer Edgar San Juan added it was a "privilege and an honor" to present the feature in Toronto, which has created an impressive launchpad for artistic films.

Ottawa's recent visa imposition aims to halt a rising number of allegedly fraudulent refugee claims by Mexicans at the U.S.-Canadian border. But it's also frustrated Mexican directors and talent newly arrived in Toronto.

Sabina Berman, the screenwriter on Carlos Carrera's "Backyard," a drama presented as fiction, but set around real-life killings of young women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico that have gone mostly unsolved, said it took a month to secure her Canadian visa.

"You're treated as if everyone wants to stay in Canada, which is not the case," Berman said.

"Backyard" director Carrera said the nearest he and his cast have come to drug cartels and violence were gun-shots heard while they shot on location in Ciudad Juarez, in the same neighborhoods where young women were murdered.

Other Mexican films unspooling in Toronto include "Presumed Guilty," a drama about two Mexican attorneys attempting to exonerate a wrongly convicted man by making a documentary, and Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio's "To the Sea Alamar," a drama about a young Mexican man and his half-Italian son reuniting.