The annual Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase was started in 2016 to present women filmmakers of the U.S.-Mexico border region. Since then, it has expanded in scope to include perceptual borders, with films focused on the experiences of immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ and other underrepresented communities, and border communities throughout the world.

The 5th annual showcase, presented by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in conjunction with the Latino Collection and Resource Center of the San Antonio Public Library, will be livestreamed Friday at 7 p.m., followed by an online Q&A at 8:30 p.m. with filmmakers Xochitl Rodriguez, Jackie Barragan, and Morningstar Angeline.

The 1-hour 22-minute showcase also presents films by Ebony Bailey, Karolina Esqueda, Celina Galacia, and Amada Torruella.

The showcase begins with a potential revelation for those unfamiliar with the origins of the jamaica flower and tamarind fruit. Filmmaker Ebony Bailey uses the experience of Afro-Mexicans to describe an overlooked aspect of Spanish colonial history, that Black labor was imported from Africa to build many of Mexico City’s familiar monuments, and that these iconic Mexican ingredients came with them.

The ubiquitous rice drink horchata has its origins in ancient West Africa, where it was made from tiger nuts, and eventually appeared in Spain in the 10th century, according to Bailey’s film. The 18-minute Jamaica and Tamarindo abounds with facts about the pre-colonial origins of food, music, dance, and other traditions.

Other films in the program tackle difficult issues including rape and domestic abuse, but in the case of Josie, by director Jackie Barragan, filtered through the personal triumph of its main subject.

The Josie of the title is Barragan’s mother, and the filmmaker narrates the tragic story of abuse that affected her aunt’s and mother’s younger lives. Josie was a fan of martial arts movie star Bruce Lee and took up her own martial arts training in part to stave off future attackers. Her rage toward her abuser, named Elias but blocked out visually in archival photos in the film, propelled her not only to expertly fend off a purse snatcher but to become a martial arts champion.

The film ends with a startling pair of statistics: only 0.7% of U.S. rapes end in a felony conviction, while 89% of victims report suffering distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Other films include an ode to frijoles, a dreamy and poetic meditation on migration, and Yá’át’ééh Abíní (Good Morning) by Morningstar Angeline, a prescient film made in 2019 that predicts a global pandemic, while simultaneously looking back into the history of disease that decimated Native American populations during the colonialist era.

An actress who nearly quit acting to become a photographer and eventual film auteur, Angeline said in a 2018 interview that it’s “important for us as Native peoples to tell our own stories so the stories can come firsthand. Some things get lost in translation and I think it’s time for Natives to be in charge via writing, directing, editing, etc. of how we are represented onscreen.”

The 5th annual Femme Frontera Filmmakers Showcase is available for viewing online in advance of its livestream and the Q&A session. Both are free and open to the public.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...