Rita in the Sky

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The documentary Rita in the Sky recently premiered at the Arizona International Film Festival. It is the story of a Tarahuamara woman from Chihuahua, Mexico. The filmmaker talks about the inspiration for making the documentary.

Jose Cardenas:
Last month the Arizona international film festival premiered over 100 films representing 30 countries. One of the documentaries shown was called "Rita in the Sky." Luis Carrion talked to the filmmaker about the inspiration for the film.

Actress 1:
I am made of moss and stars.

Luis Carrion:
"Rita in the Sky" is a new films that premiers this week at the 18th annual Arizona international film festival. The film tells the story of Rita, a Tarahuamara woman who seemingly falls from the sky, thousands of miles away from her home.

Actress 1:
I leave the mountain. I leave the land above.

Luis Carrion:
Katherine Ferguson is the filmmaker behind "Rita in the Sky," and she says the project is about the meeting of cultures.

Katherine Ferguson:
A big part of the film is about different cultures colliding. And how we act when we are confronted with another culture.

Luis Carrion:
The story of Rita is well known, and Borderlands Theater produced a play that was well received several years back.

Katherine Ferguson:
It was presented by Borderlands Theater in Tucson. I went to see it, and immediately I knew this is what I wanted to make a documentary about. So I spoke to the playwright and to some people that were involved in the production to get permission. And then to use a little bit of the play, and then I went to Mexico to find the woman and talk to her.

Luis Carrion:
This documentary is unusual in its use of dramatized accounts based on the borderlands theater production that are combined with a more traditional documentary style. The result is an insightful account of the story of Rita. [SPEAKING SPANISH] A woman that finds herself caught on the wrong side of a border. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

Actor:
Two personalities.

Actress 2:
Right. This woman has two personalities.

Actor:
This is a case of schizophrenia.

Actress 2:
Yes. And mental retardation.

Katherine Ferguson:
The story is about this woman Rita, it's a mystery. A woman was found in Kansas eating out of somebody's house. The homeowner came back, couldn't speak to the strange woman, and they decided that the woman's guttural sounds that she was making indicated that she was insane, and the people in Kansas put her in a Kansas mental institution for 10 years. Then they discovered the guttural sounds were her native language, and she's a Tarahuamara Indian from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Luis Carrion:
This takes us back to the town where Rita came from. This is where we meet the woman with the improbable story as she lives today.

Katherine Ferguson:
We have to go to these ranchos that are just basically one single lob cabin with a family living there. We looked for Rita's brother, so we found him way back in the canyons. Many people thought she was dead. Because they hadn't heard from her for 10 years. She just disappeared. And a legend grew about her, so she's -- she has no idea about this. But she is a legend in the SIERRA MADRA.

Luis Carrion:
"Rita in the Sky" is a story that defies logic and the mystery of this woman came to find herself in Kansas may never be fully understood. But the implications of her story leave us wondering what role we play in our so-called multicultural society.

Katherine Ferguson:
I made a decision to not approach the fact that somebody had walked across the border into another country. I didn't want to approach it as a political film. I wanted to approach it as trying to understand what part we play each person in the world plays in this whole immigration scene that's happening throughout the world right now. And I'm hoping that when people see the film, that by seeing all the people that talk and hearing all the things everybody says in the film, that the individual viewer is going to think what part he or she plays in this whole worldwide immigration.

Jose Cardenas:
I'm Jose Cardenas. Good night.

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