The proud Mexican tradition of corrido music-captured in the performances of Los Tigres del Norte and Chalino Sanchez-provides both heartbeat and backbone to this novel examination of songs, drugs, and dreams along the U.S./Mexico border. Director Natalia Almada, whose All Water Has a Perfect Memory won the Best Short Documentary Prize at the 2002 Tribeca Festival, follows three musicians from Sinaloa, Mexico, who embody the link between music, immigration, and drugs. San Jose, California-based Los Tigres del Norte are icons of the Mexican community, with songs fueled by the hardships of life in the U.S. and a deep nostalgia for Mexico. They also helped trigger the narco-corrido subgenre, which examines (and sometimes glorifies) the lives of drug traffickers. The charismatic Chalino Sanchez helped popularize narco-corridos among urban Mexican-American teens in the States; his brutal murder turned him into a Tupac-like icon still beloved to this day. Meanwhile, young Magdiel is still in Sinaloa, working on his father's fishing boat and penning songs, dreaming of getting "to the other side," and becoming as famous as the others. Interspersing stadium performances of Los Tigres del Norte and iconic archival footage of Chalino Sanchez with the day-to-day, far more prosaic struggles of Magdiel and other hopeful immigrants, To the Other Side is an illuminating portrait of Mexican life, and of how music can reflect hardships-and sometimes provide an escape from it. Almada's interviews with border guards, immigrant smugglers and self-confessed "border vigilantes," however, prove that life is not just a song, and is usually more nightmare than dream.
To the Other Side is Natalia Almada's debut feature-length documentary. Her experimental short, All Water Has a Perfect Memory, about a cross-cultural family remembering the loss of a child, was an official selection of the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and was awarded best short documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, and a gold plaque award at the Chicago International Film Festival. Almada was born in Mexico and was raised in both Mexico and the United States. She received her M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, and she currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.