A warm autumn day in Mexico City.
An 11-year old Korean girl mysteriously wakes up
in the home of a curmudgeonly old Mexican man.
On a warm autumn day in Mexico City, an 11-year old Korean girl stranded by disaster wakes up in the home of a curmudgeonly old man. They spend the day navigating through a city transfixed by the clickbait counterpoint to the child’s predicament — a national media frenzy around another girl trapped alive under a fallen building.
On September 19th 2017, just as Mexico City held city-wide drills to mark the anniversary of the deadly 1985 earthquake, a 7.1-magnitude seismic shock struck the heart of the metropolis again, collapsing several buildings. Amongst the hundreds of fatalities were an unconfirmed number of undocumented foreign workers trapped in buildings that were not legally authorized to function as heavy occupancy units. The irony of this tragic coincidence is doubly confounding, as many of the buildings that collapsed in the ‘85 quake nearly three decades prior were also illegal structures violating building code — again, garment factories housing migrant workers.
The media story that dominated the 2017 quake, however, was that of a girl named ‘Frida Sofia’ trapped alive in the rubble under one of the collapsed buildings. Minute by minute updates of the girl's attempted rescue aired live on TV and radio, as the whole city remained transfixed.
The bizarre events that unfolded in the following days – the fake news spectacle, the coverups, the shock, confusion, and subsequent numbness of the citizenry – these form the backdrop of CHAMACA. I had come to learn about these strange events through time spent in Mexico City, a place that I have grown to love deeply like a second home. My intention in making CHAMACA was to recalibrate the focus on the more personal and intimate experiences of typically unnoticed people as they deal with their trauma in the aftermath of such a tragedy. A counter-narrative to the sensationalized media accounts that turn disaster into entertainment, reflecting instead on everyday people just trying to navigate their new circumstances.
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