To the limit of revenge, Conor Allyn’s film that hit Mexican theaters this March 24, “is a lively portrait of the human condition in circumstances that necessarily imply seeing the other as an enemy.” But the film, according to actress Esmeralda Pimentel, “invites us to see the story behind each person instead of sentencing or accusing them.” And for the actor Jorge A. Jiménez, the director did “something different”, because “there are no good or bad”, and his character has before him “take the path of revenge and leave another family suffering, or forgive and move on with your life.”
MEXICO CITY (Process).- Five years before Donald Trump became president of the United States, the Texan actor Jake Allyn came up with the idea of To the limit of revenge (No man’s land, 2021), a disturbing story about how Mexican migrants are treated in their country, and the vision that is held of them.
Realizing that the problem is getting worse and worse, he is convinced of the need to film the story, investigates the subject in depth and co-writes it with the Mexican David Barraza. The fiction, starring Jake Allyn himself, was directed by his brother Conor Allyn in the United States, as well as in Guanajuato, San Miguel Allende and San Luis de Paz in 2019.
Then Conor said that “this film goes beyond the challenges faced by migrants and refugees in no man’s lands around the world, and the problems that cause outrage in host countries.”
It was screened at the 2020 Guanajuto International Film Festival (GIFF) and was successfully released in the United States in January 2021 on around 260 screens. Jake underlines in an interview by Zoom the enormous pressure when working on this very delicate topic:
“I thought of all the people who have been affected by this situation, the countless people who cross the border or the number of families who have a loved one at the border. For all that I had to create a good story. It had to be a good script without judging or pointing fingers, but very close to reality.”
The film shows an American family that cares for and works their ranch in Texas, where undocumented Mexicans pass through, for which they are fed up with having their fence destroyed. Jackson (Jake Allyn), the youngest of the children, is about to leave to join the New York Yankees baseball team. However, in a confrontation Jackson accidentally shoots a Mexican immigrant boy and kills him.
Jackson’s father, Bill (Frank Grillo), blames himself, but his son confesses the truth to the ranger and flees. He heads to Guanajuato, Mexico, where he was the dead teenager, but his father, a pastor (Jorge A. Jiménez) seeks out Jackson for revenge.
Behind Jackson is not only the American police, but also the Mexican one. So this time it is about an American who crosses the border illegally.
Conor has declared to the press that To the limit of revenge, which arrived in Mexican theaters on March 24, is a “vivid portrait of the human condition in circumstances that necessarily imply seeing the other as an enemy.”
It is a Mexican-American production with the performances of Andie MacDowell and Alex MacNicoll, and the Mexicans Ofelia Medina and Esmeralda Pimentel. Juan Pablo Ramírez is in charge of photography, which stands out in the western genre film.
A filmmaking family
Jake, 32, and Conor, 36, always try to focus on the untold story instead of re-enacting something that has been told “20 times”.
The script contains experiences from Conor and Jake’s own childhood; the latter details:
“I grew up in Texas, but my dad, Rob, worked a lot in Mexico, which allowed me to travel to that country as a child. I was in meals and family breakfasts of 30 people. I know both sides, the United States and Mexico. The script is based on what happens at the border, how people cross, the role of the border patrol and the political aspects of migration.
“In this case, Jorge A. Jiménez, who is the father of the murdered child, has a green card to travel legally in the United States, but he cannot pass it on to his own children. I did not know it. That is why he passes his descendant over the dangerous frontier. I tried to combine all these realities in a fictional story. It was a challenge.”
Conor and Jake’s father, Rob (California, 1959), also promoted To the limit of revenge, since he invited investors from both Mexico and Texas. He is president and director of Margate House Films. He was a political consultant in the United States, and later advised presidents and other politicians in Brazil, Indonesia, Japan and Mexico.
Conor, both a screenwriter and producer, studied history at Georgetown University in Washington. He then lived in Indonesia, where he co-wrote with his dad Merah Putin (Red and White), directed by Yadi Sugandi, and two sequels followed: Blood of Eagles and Heart of Freedom. He later made Java Heat (Hit in Java, 2013), and Andar. Ride. Rodeo (2019) for Netflix. He was also the executive producer of the Mexican film I am not here (2019), by Fernando Frías, and Edge of the World (On the edge of the world, 2021), by Michael Haussman.
Jake (1985) studied at Cornell University, New York. He starred in the Brian Andrew Mendoza-directed thriller Sweet Girl and Shana Feste’s Run Sweetheart Run, and in the series The Quad and The Baxters. He will be making his directorial debut with the drama Ride which he will be filming this summer. He opines:
“We can’t see each other the same because land boundaries are created, and there’s no reason why we couldn’t cross.”
Rob underscored during filming in Mexico:
“We wanted to make it especially so that the United States audience would walk a stretch in the shoes of migrants, because there have been great Mexican films about migration, but many times people in the United States and Europe see them with pity, and that is not a constructive emotion; empathy does, because if you can feel what they feel and understand it, then you can make a change.”
In the plot, when the character Jackson tries to flee, he asks for help from a Mexican rancher and his daughter Victoria, who is played by Esmeralda Pimentel, who give the American a job. Pimentel (Ciudad Guzmán, Jalisco, 1989) explains to Proceso that To the limit of revenge she is very far from the format of “the good guys and the bad guys.” Attach:
“The film shows people who make mistakes and exposes that we are not so different. At the end of the day we are all just human beings, with dreams, ideals and needs. We want to love and be loved. If we start to connect from there, there will be no war, there would not be all this violence or all this separation. At the end of the day we set the limits, they are imaginary, which has resulted in terrible consequences.
“The film invites us to see the story behind each person instead of sentencing or accusing them, nor pointing out: you are good and you are bad. I think it delves into the human condition. When Jackson arrives at my dad’s ranch in the United States in the film, we open the doors for him, but obviously he also had to earn it, like all Mexicans who are very fighters, hard workers and very noble.
For the actress, the problem of migration, “rather than leaving it to governments, you always have to review yourself.” She concludes:
“We must know what those small big actions are that we can start to do to reduce violence and get closer to what we believe is different.”
Pimentel studied at the Televisa Center for Artistic Education.
neither good nor bad
A native of Zaragoza, Coahuila, the actor Jorge A. Jiménez, in another Zoom, agrees with Pimentel:
“Here there are neither good nor bad, unlike other projects. We Mexicans say that Americans are bad, that they don’t love us and that they are racist. Over there, the Americans point out that we Mexicans are bad… Everywhere there is everything. What’s interesting is that director Conor Allyn, being an American, wrote a story that we’re not used to. He almost always takes a side and we defend it, and he did something different.”
Jiménez, who studied theater directing and acting in San Marcos, Texas, talks about the contribution of To the limit of revenge:
“It tells Americans to look at immigrants, Mexicans and Latinos, because these are people looking for a better life. In addition, you see the side of the American who defends his house, his home. If I have a little ranch and I fence it off but someone destroys the place and robs me, then I have to defend what is mine. The two families, the Mexican who crosses into the United States and the one who lives in the neighboring country to the north, struggle to be well. The story makes us put ourselves in the shoes of the other and understand a little bit that clash of cultures.”
He says about his character as a father violated by the murder of the teenager:
“They did not go into the story of that man, who worshiped God, but lost his wife and wants to help people, so that nothing happens to him when he goes to the United States illegally. Then they kill his son. What he has had to live through is very strong and he denies God. And it’s up to him to take the path of revenge and leave another family to suffer, or he forgives and moves on with his life.”
Jiménez reflects on this phenomenon of migration to the north:
“It is a conflict that has been lived forever, and not only in our borders. It is a world situation. It is not only crossing the river, but the limit to have a better life, or at least what we think is going to be a better life, but there are much harder cases than we have experienced.”
And he expresses the desire that “hopefully things will be fixed and that there will be some positive change.”
In 2019, Jiménez recreated Luis Donaldo Colosio for the Netflix series Crime Story: Colosio. He was part of the film Territorio (2019), by Andrés Clariond. He will soon be seen in the feature films La civil (2021), by Teodora Mihai, and Borrego (2021), by Jesse Harris.
Regarding the intercepted undocumented immigrants, the real figures are not pleasant: the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) reported that between October 2021 and last February, a total of 312,831 Mexicans (an average of 2,071 a day) were detained trying to cross the southern border of the United States.
The largest number of Mexicans detained was in Tucson, with 69,737; then in San Diego, with 50 thousand 399; and in Del Río, with 41 thousand 641.
Chris Magnus, commissioner of the CBP, has indicated that in February there was a slight increase in the number of migrant detention events on the southern border of the United States, most of them coming from Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador).
The bulk of the expulsions of irregular migrants, he pointed out, was carried out under the provisions of Title 42, a public health order invoked by the Donald Trump administration in March 2020 to justify immediate mass deportations, on the grounds that they would prevent the spread of covid-19.
The measure is maintained by the current US president, Joe Biden.