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Show at the IFC Center / Winners of the 2007 SAFILM Indie Max Award


TIJUANA MAKES ME HAPPY screened on Tuesday, February 13th, at the IFC Center in New York City.

The projection was a success, and the audience loved the movie. Thank you Slamdance!



In an era of reality television shows that feel even more scripted and formulaic than the latest Hollywood romantic comedy, it is easy to be cynical about the capacity of today's film and television industries for genuine storytelling. More often than not when the lights come up, we in the audience are left with the feeling that if art reflects life, then our particular existence is some off-kilter cross between the melodramatic and the ridiculous, with all the depth of Norbit and the pathos of American Idol.

I was rejuvenated when I left the IFC Center in New York City after seeing TIJUANA MAKES ME HAPPY, directed by Dylan Verrechia and produced by James Lefkowitz, which won the Grand Jury prize for Best Narrative Feature at Slamdance in Park City this year. A coming-of-age story about a young boy growing to manhood in Playas de Tijuana, Verrechia and Lefkowitz's film is an invigorating fusion of fiction and reality that rises to the challenge of powerful storytelling and fun, innovative film-making.

TIJUANA MAKES ME HAPPY is all the more compelling because the actors in the film are actual Tijuana residents essentially playing themselves. Jhonny and Indio are played by father/son duo Pablo Tendilla Rocha and Pablo Tendilla Ortiz. In real life, Pablo and Pablito live with the rest of their family--a mother and two sisters--but they do a marvelous job channeling the friction and co-dependence of a father and son alone together in the world, trying to negotiate each other's needs and expectations. In fact, there are no professional actors in the cast, and the scenes are refreshingly authentic as a result.

With subdued pacing and un-staged shots of the Tijuana red-light district at night, the morning ceremony at a local school, the ever-expanding development of bright pink houses where the families live, and the local slums, the film has a documentary sensibility that is enlivened by the carefully constructed story the characters live out.

What it lacks in sharpness, TIJUANA MAKES ME HAPPY more than makes up for in sincerity and pizazz. The title song will be stuck in your head for weeks, and the poignancy of Indio's adolescent struggle and redemption never fades. That Verrechia and Lefkowitz have succeeded in creating a universally appealing Tijuana-based tale at a time when the American government and countless citizens regularly denounce people from south of the border is an accomplishment and a contribution.


An article published in IndieIN by Rebecca Wiegand. Catch the full article at IndieIN .