By Dr. Miguel Juárez
Both Governor Greg Abbott and Filmmaker Charlie Minn seem to think that we will all be going back to our previous lives by October 2020. In Minn’s case, he seems to think that we will be able to attend his week-long October 9th film screening on the Walmart shooting at Premiere Cinemas at Bassett Center. He may have to postpone the screening.
The August 3rd shooting was an opportune moment for the filmmaker who capitalizes on misery, tragedy, and “victim-driven” storytelling in his films. His first film was on the 1990 Las Cruces Bowling Alley Massacres, which have never been solved. Minn is a prolific documentary filmmaker who puts himself in his films as the interviewer in a sort of vanity-type of filmmaking. According to him, his films have over 1,000 reviews on Amazon. He states that both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have reviewed his work. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) states that Minn “has sold films to Lions Gate and Investigation Discovery and once worked for the TV series America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back (1988).”
I used to be a big Charlie Minn fan, so much that I would invite him to speak in my classes so students could hear about this work. I saw Minn as an unsung hero in filmmaking. I even proposed that we organize a Charlie Minn Film Festival. I saw him as someone who wanted to the get to the bottom of issues in his films, someone who wanted to make a difference.
I stopped inviting Minn to my classes after Fall 2019 when he questioned my students about the Walmart shootings. In one of my classes, he asked my students whether anyone in the class had been affected by the tragedy? A young woman at the back of the class raised her hand and told us that her uncle had been shot. Minn then proceeded to question her by asking her her uncle’s name, but then the student became visually upset, stood up and ran out of the room. Minn looked stunned. I felt he had gone a bit far. I felt it was inappropriate of him to use my class to research his film. Afterwards, via text messaging, I challenged him about the class incident. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Last month he had the audacity to friend me on Facebook. I declined.
Watch the “915” Trailer: 915film.com
As of late, Minn has been making the e-mail and newspaper rounds to promote his film which he calls “915.” I saw a notice on a borderlands mailing list where I’m a member. His 915.com film site states:
This film honors all the innocent victims without one mention of the shooter. This is a complete analysis of what happened that day, as well as an exploration of a lot of overlooked angles.
In his May 11, 2020 interview in El Diario to promote his film, Minn criticized the El Paso Police Department by stating: “The police took six minutes to get to the scene and they didn’t know who the gunman was.” Minn states his film focuses on details which have been ignored and on questions which have not been answered.
He states that his film presents “the most honest, brutally crude aspects” of the tragedy. El Diario states that Minn interviewed witnesses, survivors, the wounded, family members and friends in an effort to lend integrity to the film. It may sound nice to want to lend integrity to the film, but again, stating that he wants to “lend integrity to the film” sounds like a bandaid for wounds which will never heal.
Minn’s “915” trailer exposes the grim and bloody reality of what took place on that day. We see bodies on top of pools of blood in the front of Walmart and in the parking lot. Unfortunately, those cell phone videos are not credited when they are shown in the trailer. Hopefully, Minn will credit the clips unless the people who recorded them wanted to remain anonymous. Sourcing your film is one way to lend authority and integrity to your films.
The devil is in the details
Minn said he also feels the Mexican victims have been received scant attention in the United States which he considers a disgrace. I wonder how much attention he devotes to making sure the Mexican victims are presented in substantive ways? Does he detail who the Mexican victims were? Did he go to Mexico and interview people who knew them? You cannot make statements that Mexican victims have been received scant attention and not remedy those issues yourself. He also states that the El Paso Police Department and Walmart representatives were not interviewed in the film [possibly because they did not want to jeopardize the legal case?] Minn states that beyond the silence of the EPPD and Walmart, the film will reveal more than has been presented.
I don’t know why Minn didn’t wait until the trial to complete his film if he was after the facts. It feels more like he wanted to be the first person to put out a film on the shooting. Minn’s “915” film will surely follow the his realm of filmmaking, where he is the lead interviewer and where there are falsehoods around every corner. I question if perhaps he may create a sequel after the trial, after we discover more truths?
Director’s statement for “915”
In his Director’s Statement for “915,” Minn states the film is one of the “most difficult story [he has] encountered.” He said when he was informed about the shooter, he was certain the person was not from El Paso. He states that the “beautiful Hispanic community has been targeted for way too long, from the 1984 San Ysidro massacre, to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the discriminatory murders continue to occur.”
I’m not too sure how Minn ties all these shootings to his concept of one monolith Latino community? He states that Hispanics need to fight back, not through violence but by “compelling dialogue.” How can we fight back by compelling dialogue if we lack the vehicles to do so?
How much do local newspapers and news agencies represent our views and publish our “compelling dialogues?” Some national news agencies still see Latinos as thieves and rapists. I feel Minn’s insistence on fighting back with “compelling dialogue” is a benign statement, something that is nice to say amid the horrific incident, but unless there are true vehicles to tell our stories and state the record straight as to who we are, his statement is meaningless.
Minn seems to think that all Latinos can gather hands and present one unified voice. He states “high profile Hispanics, whether they are a professional athlete or a movie star have to speak up more because their voices resonate on a much larger scale.” Latinos in the United States are not unified and there are vast differences between different ethnic groups. High profile Hispanics are not unified as much as “high profile Asian-Americans” are unified. Also, you cannot lump all “high profile Hispanics” into one group. Latinos are too diverse to be lumped into one group.
In his director’s statement Minn states: “Now is not the time for silence,” and again, this is another cliché of clichés. He promises to do his part in his movie “to provide a significant response to fight for the Hispanic race that did not deserve this and continue to be targeted.” Latinos in the United States have been targeted for generations, it did not start with gun violence in America.
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