The Pajarito Mesa is a beautiful but trash-ridden swath of desert overlooking Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is also home to over 250 families living without access to water or electricity. They live on Pajarito not because it’s off-the-grid, but because it’s what they can afford. Making something out of nothing, the residents of Pajarito build their lives from the scraps that others have thrown away. They hope that through their hard work, they will see change in their lives and their community.
Una Nueva Tierra (A New Land) traces the struggles of three families as they are cast to society's margins, unable to achieve even the most basic progress due to their poverty.
The process of making this film was as much about forming relationships as it was about choosing where to point the camera. We filmed Bura the first time we met him. Looking back at the footage of him opening his gate, laughing, telling us to “come on” – inviting us into his home, strangers with a camera – we see the kindness and strength that we came to know more intimately over the years. The second time we filmed with Bura we mostly photographed his face and hands. The camera became a tool for getting to know him, and getting to know him helped us to film closer. We are forever grateful to him for teaching us how to be filmmakers.
We set out to make a film where the camera would record the daily lives of those living on the Pajarito Mesa. We knew we would have to nurture trust and work with individuals who were as drawn to us as we were to them. Part of the mutual attraction of the relationships we formed was our differences, as we sought to understand what we didn’t have experience with. We filmed the everyday act of Vanessa chopping wood because it was so different from our lives, and she let us do it because an outsider had never been so interested in the details of her life.
To us, there is a difference between staring and seeing: we stare at what we don’t understand and see what we do. It would be easy to typecast the individuals in the film as those “living on the margins,” to separate ourselves from them by claiming that life dealt them a bad set of cards. But there are many immigrants with stories similar to Bura’s, female veterans with experiences like Vanessa’s, and concerned citizens like Carlos who want to protect those they care about. We hope that our film portrays these individuals in a way that lets them truly be seen.
Jackie Munro & Jesse Fisher
Una Nueva Tierra (A New Land) was awarded Best Documentary by the New Mexico Film Office at the 2017 New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase.