‘Los Tigres del Norte: Stories to tell’, the most intimate documentary of the “bosses” of the corrido

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The Parisian film festival ‘Viva México’ opened its 2022 edition with director Carlos Pérez Osorio and producer José Nacif who presented their documentary about ‘Los Tigres del Norte’, a film that reels from intimacy how the Hernández brothers and their cousin Óscar Lara left a humble ranch in Sinaloa at the end of the 1960s to become a myth with his corridos, border chronicles between the US and Mexico.

With a 54-year career, millions of records sold and multiple Grammy awards, Los Tigres del Norte have become the longest-running band in Mexico. They reinvented the corrido, that musical genre that was consolidated during the Mexican Revolution, about its leaders and their exploits. But those from Sinaloa revolutionized corridos with their chronicles about migrants, becoming the idols of millions of people on both sides of the border.

The Hernández brothers, as well as their cousin Lara, left their humble ranch in Lanache in the 1960s, in the town of Rosa Morada, in Sinaloa (Mexico), to make a living singing in Mexicali. They soon had the opportunity to cross over to San José, California (USA) where after three albums they found success with the popular song ‘Contrabando y Traición’, better known as ‘Camelia la tejana’. Since then they haven’t stopped recording and doing concerts with more than 500 songs in their repertoire like the mega-known ‘Chief of chiefs’ or ‘We are more Americans’.

The director of the documentary Carlos Pérez Osorio and the producer José Nacif spent many hours with them to see how they approached this documentary, which shows the most familiar and intimate face of this group. “They have always been known for being professionals and they took the documentary seriously,” explains Pérez Osorio, who brought them together in a restaurant in San José (California) where they have been going regularly since the 1970s to recall their history, many times of suffering and efforts, and their anecdotes. “The restaurant thing was a trigger for these conversations that they hadn’t had for a long time… I think it made them feel very comfortable to tell their story,” adds Pérez Osorio.

The result is a documentary that revolves around the family and the chronicles of migrants. “Speaking with them, we realized that something that had not been told about these idols was their most personal life, understanding that there are people behind the legend, people who face challenges and who have made sacrifices, and that is why they represent so much for the people who emigrate, not only from Mexico, but from all over the world”, explains the director.

Not for nothing did they call Los Tigres “The voice of the people”, because many Mexicans and Latin Americans in general identified with what they sing. “They have been chroniclers of what has happened on the border, or on the borders in America, and they have been able to tell it very well, what it represents day to day, work, migration,” says the producer. , Jose Nacif.

José Nacif, producer of the documentary 'The Northern Tigers: Stories to Tell', at Escala in Paris.
José Nacif, producer of the documentary ‘The Northern Tigers: Stories to Tell’, at Escala in Paris. © RFI

Los Tigres del Norte did not compose, but they relied on composers such as Teodoro Bello, Víctor Valencia or Enrique Manuel Franco. “They know and have the thermometer of what he wants to talk about and they made teams with great composers who injected a lot of energy, this was combined with what he implemented in terms of electric bass and drums and rock and blues influences Arthur Walker (the English producer who discovered them and that he accompanied them for many years)”, analyzes José Nacif about the key to the success of Los Tigres.

The Spanish writer Arturo Pérez Reverte appears in the documentary and explains that he was inspired by the corridos of the Tigres del Norte to write ‘La Reina del Sur’, about the life of the Mexican drug trafficker Teresa Mendoza. The documentary tiptoes, however, through the narcocorrido subgenre, which has been banned in several states for considering that it is an “apology for drug trafficking.”

“Particularly, I think it has not been that important. If we look at these more than 50 years of career, there are few cases in which they have been banned and it has had little impact. I think it is more about a fame that spreads a lot because it creates curiosity”, considers Carlos Pérez Osorio, who acknowledges that it was raised as a subject to make the documentary.

“We tried to put it in some way with the theme ‘Chief of chiefs’, about whom it is written, and then we asked the composer, Teodoro Bello, the Tigres themselves, and each one gave their point of view, but we decided to focus on the family and migration because it was much more interesting than continuing to generate narratives about drug trafficking in Mexico,” concludes Pérez Osorio.

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Written by Editor TLN

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