Screened as part of NZIFF 2018

Chulas Fronteras 1976

Directed by Les Blank Music & Dance

A beautiful, timely restoration of Chulas Fronteras (meaning ‘Beautiful Borders’), folklorist/cine-poet Les Blank’s classic ode to Norteña music and the migrant culture that exists along the Texas–Mexican border. 

USA In English and Spanish with English subtitles
58 minutes DCP

Director/Photography/ Editor


Chris Strachwitz

Assistant editor

Maureen Gosling


Flaco Jiménez
Lydia Mendoza
Los Alegres de Terán
Narciso Martínez
Los Pingüinos del Norte
Santiago Jimenez, Sr


Auckland 1980

Is there another filmmaker who has illustrated more warmly or vividly the connections between song and community than Les Blank (1935–2013)?

Shot in the late 1970s – and restored now by his son Harrod – Chulas Fronteras and its companion piece Del mero corazón offer a rousing introduction to the music of the Mexican–American border. The films celebrate pioneering figures like Narciso Martínez and Lydia Mendoza as well as then-current performers like Flaco Jiménez and Los Pingüinos del Norte. The simple, moving poetry of the Spanish lyrics is spelled out in the subtitles.

We see the music performed in dance halls, at weddings, barbecues, cockfights, in horse paddocks. Blank’s eye is invariably drawn to animals, dancers, children – and to Mexican food you will want to eat. This music is also a soundtrack to a hard life. There are tales of brutal fieldwork, migrant exploitation and heartbreaking incidents of racism. The songs interweave with these stories and Blank’s beautiful images, offering narratives of their own. — Nick Bollinger

Preceded by Del mero corazón (Straight from the Heart).

Screening With This Feature

Del mero corazón 1979


USA In English and Spanish with English subtitles
29 minutes

Norteña love songs shot at the same time as Chulas Fronteras.