Gregory Nava’s Bordertown and the dark side of NAFTA
Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet
Gregory Nava's 2006 film Bordertown, a gothic thriller starring Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas, is based on the real circumstances of the murders and their failed investigations. Bordertown indicts the factory owners and managers and the governments of Mexico and the US, and specifically names North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as creating the conditions that allow these murders to happen. By representing the wealthy villain as a vampiric figure, the film also makes him into a personification of the predatory effects of the neoliberal political economy that keeps women like Eva living in precarity: unsafe at work, unsafe on the streets and unsafe in her shanty-town home. Thus, the real villain in the film is NAFTA itself, and the neoliberal policies that shaped it, especially as these exploit and exacerbate the existing power structures along racial and gender lines.
Hand-held cameras and night vision technology have become increasingly common in the contemporary horror film. Taking Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s phenomenally successful REC films (2007, 2009, 2012) as exemplary of this and other recent trends (e.g. intertextual cannibalism and girl monsters), this chapter will examine how these innovations relate to the certain generic constants of the horror film (such as obstructed visibility and mounting dramatic structure). The driving motor of both REC and REC2 is their use of video recording technology. While the threat seems to shift from zombie-like contagion in the first film to demonic possession in the second, the technological gambit of the two films remains the same: both films are entirely mediated by recording equipment. A single professional TV camera occupies center stage in the first case while in the second, there is a proliferation of devices and locations (including cameras embedded into firefighters’ helmets). Both films give the night vision function a key role in the final (climactic) segment during which the dialectic between visibility and invisibility itself becomes the main drama and the camera the central protagonist.
Over the course of the past twenty-five years, as neoliberal economics has transformed the geopolitical landscape, monsters have overrun popular culture. This book explores literary, televisual, filmic and dramatic works from distant and diverse countries. It traces the vampire's evolution from the nineteenth-century past of industrial capitalism to the neoliberal present's accelerated violence and corrupt precarity, and discusses the NBC television mini-series Dracula, perfectly encapsulating our own post-recessionary subjectivity. The book addresses state capitalism but turns readers' attention away from the vampire and towards the ghost, focusing on the ways in which such spectral figures have come to dominate new German theatre. On the biotechnology sector, the book presents three examples: cinematic depictions of the international organ trade in Asia, the BAFTA award winning three-part series In the Flesh broadcast in BBC3, and literary representations of the dehumanised South African poor. The book moves from the global to the local, and charts the ways in which post-2006 house owners are trapped in the house by the current economic situation, becoming akin to its long-term resident ghosts. The ghost estates, reanimated and reimagined by the Irish artists and film-makers, are shown to embody the price paid locally for failures in global economic policy. The preoccupation with states of liminality is encapsulated by showing that the borders of the nation state have become a permeable membrane. Through this membrane, the toxic waste of first world technology seeps out alongside the murderous economic imperatives of the neoliberal agenda.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book engages with the geopolitical context of the gothic's migration from the periphery to the fast-beating heart of popular culture, specifically the rise to economic and cultural pre-dominance of global neoliberalism. It traces the vampire's evolution from the nineteenth-century past of industrial capitalism to the neoliberal present's accelerated violence and corrupt precarity. The book explores the political, social and cultural contradictions that have emerged in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis. This was a period that has been characterised by substantial cuts to public expenditure, bank bailouts and mass unemployment. The book also examines the Mexican-American border as a gothic space created by a combination of postcolonial power relations and the new economic and political conditions created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).