Among the many offerings at the Los Angeles Film Festival this weekend is a documentary titled “Reportero.” It focuses on Sergio Haro, a veteran crime reporter at the Tijuana-based newspaper, Zeta, that week after week blares full-page headlines about political corruption and drug cartel violence.
KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman Lopez sat down with the film’s director Bernardo Ruiz.
Bernardo Ruiz: Sergio is a veteran beat reporter, he's been writing for nearly three decades in the border city of Mexicali, and his beat is literally everything that happens in Mexicali. So he covers political corruption, political scandal. A big part of what he's covered is organized crime, immigration, but he's also after human stories. He always likes to say that he's after the story that's behind the story -- stories that fall between the cracks.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: In the beginning in the doc he talks about journalism reflecting reality and the reality that you're talking here is the reality where the drug cartels are corrupting the institutions, the civil institutions in a country. What caught your attention about how Sergio sees his profession?
Ruiz: I kept asking him if he felt like his job was futile. He will publish a story, he'll break a very big story and oftentimes the very people he's criticizing or outing for their corruption remain on power. Nothing happens to them. And so there were many times in the filmmaking process where I would ask him, 'Sergio, don't you feel like this kind of Sisyphean task of yours isn't it kind of a waste of your time?'
He was always very clear about that, he wasn't excessively optimistic, but he would always say, 'I have my job to do. I have one piece of the puzzle to do. My job is to get the story out there and to publish the story and get it out into the world. What happens afterwards is not my job. My job is to tell the story I'm a reporter, I'm a photographer, that's what I do. The authorities are then responsible for doing something with that information.
Guzman-Lopez: Your documentary is set to air on public television in the fall. Why is it an important film for a U.S. audience to watch?
Ruiz: I think unfortunately most of the news that we get about Mexico in the U.S. is about the body count or heads in the streets. It's not that those stories aren't valid, but I felt that it was really important to tell the story about a kind of quiet dignity of a beat reporter, someone who is doing their job and there are many structural failures around this person, but here is one reporter and one newspaper that really are doing their job.
Guzman-Lopez: What does Zeta reporter Sergio think about the film?
Ruiz: I'll tell you the most touching thing that he said to me is, Sergio has a son, and he watched a cut of the film with his son. After the screening of the film his son came up to him, a son who's a teenager and doesn't always have the easiest relationship with his father, he said, 'Dad, I just want you to know that I've always been proud of you."
Bernardo Ruiz’s film "Reportero" screens at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sat. June 16 at 7:40 p.m. and Mon. June 17, at 7:50 p.m. Get tickets here.