May 16, 2003

Let the street noise in

Boys and Girls living in the streets of Tijuana grab a camera and tell us about their lives…

By Mariana Martinez

The sad problem of kids living in the streets is, unfortunately, not new. Every once in awhile newspapers fill their pages with alarming statistics and a few strong pictures, and the public is outraged, until they turn the page and find another problem to deal with.

Tijuana is a place where this national problem crashes (like many others) mainly because of strong and steady immigration into this city, in search of job opportunities, a chance to cross the border or find a lost relative on its busy streets. It is also very attractive to runaway, for some kids to seek refuge from abusive families, or sometimes they are abandoned to find their own path, all can be found in Tijuana, in search of the Promised Land.

Many of those kids, without shelter or money, can find themselves in prostitution, drugs and alcohol abuse by either adults or even other kids, and once they get in, they find themselves in a constant struggle between criminal behavior and rehabilitation in search of a peaceful life we all deserve and fight for.

Let the street noise in is a collective project born three year ago in the Human Studies School at Baja California State University (UABC) as a research proposal in the Audiovisual Cultural Studies Program, where Itzel Martínez del Cañizo, César Valderrama and Ingrid Hernández, started thinking about an innovative approach on telling the stories of rarely seen points of view and lifestyles constantly on trial but hardly ever listened to.

That was the beginning of Let the street noise in, ending up a as project to work with kids living in the streets or at risk of going back to the streets. The idea was for the filmmakers to create simultaneous percussion and video workshops for the participating kids over the course of a year, in search of letting them tell their own stories to and from the camera and make music to go with their own documentary, this approach, along with the filmmakers takes and own views is designed to let the public into these children’s lives presented in a mixture of extremely personal moments and contextual takes.

Tyson, filming with the camera.

The project won funding by City and Community Support Program (PACMyC) in 2001 so they immediately started to work with some kids staying at a local rehabilitation program for drug addicted street kids called Rehabilitation Center for Drug Addicted Minors (MERAC-ARAC) in the middle of Tijuana.

They started the percussion workshops twice a week. César Valderrama would join the kids and show them how to build their own instruments from trash and started a percussion ensemble, while Itzel Martínez gave them filmmaking workshops, both jobs designed to help them cope with their emotions and learn about teamwork and a way for them to make the sound track of the documentary about themselves.

As the project evolved other Communication graduates and UABC students Krishna Monárrez, Mónica Sanchéz Araceli Flores and Sandra Bello started to help out with the movie workshops while Iván Díaz and Yonke Art (independent film organization) got more and more involved in the project.

But the interaction was tough, the kids and filmmakers both had a lack of trust and personal issues to get over.

By 2002 the first stage of the project was complete and the money gone, but luckily they won the state’s Cultural and Artistic Production Award, an award that would let them keep going in their work with the girls chosen to be the main subjects of the film, and along with them, develop the issues brought up in the documentary.

What do they want to tell? The girls and filmmakers had endless debates about it and finally decided on these categories:

a. My reality. The girls wrote and directed their own short films about important their own life changing moments.

b. Interviews with the girls so we get to know their stories behind their current circumstances.

c. Self portraits. Each girl would have a camera and interview herself. The girls used this tool as a mirror, a diary and an open window for us to peek. Later, the girls shared their views about important issues (brought up in the self portraits) and discuss their classing views.

All of the girls takes were complemented by work of the filmmakers in the streets were kids living in the streets hang out or live at, in the streets of Tijuana and the soundtrack will be music by the boys and girls in the Percussion ensemble.

Lili’s face

The happy and tired filmmakers currently have 120 hours of film to edit, the fruits of two and a half year of sharing their lives with this kids.

“A lot of the girls are no longer in the rehab center, most of them in fact have gone on or run away, or taken out of rehab by their families, unfortunately a lot of them tend to go back to their old lifestyle” tells Itzel. “Even though they think drug addiction is their problem we have become aware that it is more the consequence, a consequence derived from their own familiar disintegration, lack of education and life opportunities.

Sadly their parents are themselves a product of a disintegrating society, so this behavior becomes hereditary” she sighs.

What are friends for?

The third stage of the project is the most expensive. Documentary’s Post-production, editing, musicalization, sound and mastering, all of that to create a DVD showing the documentary and a behind the scenes film.

Grants and award money are long gone, and filmmakers now face the fact that, without more money their two and a half years of effort would sit on a shelf, without ever getting to the public.

When a part of Tijuana’s artistic community heard about their problem, bar owners, bands of musicians, dj’s and other filmmakers offered to help however they could.

Voodoo House and El Centro Bar offered to host concerts along with local bands like Bye samy, 4 eli, Vía Aérea and Aeroplano, sharing the stage with legendary Tijuana dj´s like Tolo and Nortec’s Bostich.

The result was 4 nights of events (two of them already held April 26 and May 10) where the cover fee will go in to Let the street noise in fund to cover all of the editing expenses of the documentary, the promotional video of the documentary will be shown to the public, on each event.

The next two events will be Saturday May 23 at El Centro Bar. 5dlls cover fee for anyone over 18 and May 24 at Voodoo House, where the fee will be 4 dlls and open to all ages. For more information or to find out how you can help, visit or write to

Itzel Martínez an the rest of Let the street noise in staff is profoundly moved by this outpour of solidarity form the artist community, who showed up to give time and effort to support local documentary production and build strong social awareness and new light on this shamefully common subject.

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