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Binational Film Festival kicks off next week

Binational Film Festival

It's touted as the only binational film festival in the world -- an ambitious effort to screen narrative films and documentaries in two countries at the same time in an effort to unite an audience through the power of film.

"By having documentaries from the U.S. and from Mexico, the freshest ones, the newest ones, talking to each other, it's beautiful," said Cesar Alejandro, a longtime El Paso filmmaker who has starred in, written and produced dozens of movies over the past two decades. He helped create the Binational Independent Film Festival, which is now celebrating its 17th year.

"We have 'El Paso,' which is a documentary about all the asylum people that have come to El Paso because of threatening of their lives, and Juarez, and the subjects of the documentary are going to be there watching the documentary with you and then will talk to you," he said.

As in years past, the festival will screen movies for audiences in El Paso and Juarez. Alejandro says the festival provides an opportunity for open dialogue at a time when the border is in the national spotlight.

"That's why we're bringing documentaries like 'Dolores,' who is about uniting people and having a common cause, and 'Disturbing the Peace,' which is a beautiful documentary about militants from the Palestinian side and the Israeli side getting together and saying, you know, 'Three thousand years of war has gotten us nowhere," he said.

Aside from completed award-winning films, the festival will also feature works in progress, from filmmakers who are eager to hear what local audiences have to say.

"And the audiences of El Paso and Juarez are going be able to tell these people what they need to cut so that they can do their final edit," Alejandro said.

This year, the festival is honoring actress Cindy Pickett, who starred as Matthew Broderick's mother in the hit film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

Alejandro says the festival works when audiences engage.

"And everything goes to the Child Crisis Center this year, so the Child Crisis Center gets your money and you get to enjoy a film for a very cheap price," he said.

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