The film follows a 13 year old boy from Tijuana (Manny) as he embarks on his first drug smuggle across the "Devil's Highway," a notoriously fatal stretch of desert on the Arizona/Mexico border.
I have been obsessed with Mexico for as long as I can remember. But my obsession with smuggling and the drug war began in earnest when I was living in Mexico for a summer in 2007 and witnessed the aftermath of a particularly gruesome Cartel shootout. That set the wheels in motion and when I returned to LA that fall, it was all I could think about. Early on in my research I embedded with the border patrol for a day and couldn’t believe what I saw. The 30 seconds they spent talking with a commuter at the port was the ultimate poker game. If the commuter was carrying, they had 30 seconds to convince these guys they weren’t. And the border patrol had 30 seconds to determine the truth. The stakes on either side were immensely high. And the clock was ticking. It was incredible screenwriting fodder. I was hooked.
I chose to approach this world from the perspective of the person I identified with the most: The Smuggler. As an independent filmmaker, I suppose I feel a loose kinship, often stealing and kicking my way through life in order to make my art.
I originally wrote this short as a prequel to the feature film I’ve been writing for the past year and a half (Smuggler) but as I began researching for the short and pre-producing it, it really developed a life of it’s own.
Shooting, casting, and crewing up from within Tijuana was a requisite for me making this film. I wanted every location to be authentic and while it was painstaking and intense to ensure that, it was ultimately very worth it. Weather that meant being one of the first film crews to penetrate the “Camino Verde” neighborhood in east TJ, or capturing a real crossing point of smugglers in the Sonoran desert, or withstanding 115 degree heat in the actual“Devils Highway” of Arizona to film Manny’s journey. We put blood, sweat, and tears into the film and we feel like that can be felt on screen.