CROSSING POINT is a tense action-thriller set in Baja, Mexico. When American Michael Taylor (played by Shawn Lock) and his Mexican girlfriend Olivia (Maria Gabriela da Faria) vacation on the beach, the film’s images of drug busts contrasted with their idyllic seaside hotel foreshadow the dark premise to come. Soon the couple find themselves the target of a drug cartel asking Michael to smuggle cocaine across the border within twelve hours in order to save his girlfriend’s life.
This is where the film’s first turn of action begins, and it doesn’t let up there. CROSSING POINT offers frenetic pacing, surprising reveals, and a complex and multi-faceted portrait of a region suffering from the drug war and border crossing policies. Shot almost entirely on location with a moving camera that never lets up, one of the great pleasures of CROSSING POINT is watching the landscape of Baja, Tijuana, and San Diego unfold before you, gorgeous scenery and abject poverty side by side. Another is watching a talented international cast play out a suspenseful drama that takes enough twists that one is unsure at times where it will go. While the film is grounded in pressing contemporary issues, it feels much more like a thrill ride than a piece of social commentary. Much of the commentary is slyly visual, while viewers get caught up in the power struggle of the players on screen.
XLRator Media will be releasing CROSSING POINT on iTunes and VOD on May 6, 2016.
I got the chance to interview Daniel Zirilli, the director of CROSSING POINT, about his vision for the film. About a week later, I was also lucky enough to speak with Shawn Lock, the lead actor who played Michael and who also co-wrote the film.
— SHARON GISSY.
Daily Grindhouse: At the beginning of the film, it states that it is inspired by true events. How much research about drug cartels and border crossings informed the shoot?
Daniel Zirilli: When I received the script, it had that tagline from Shawn Lock. But a lot of it is based on personal experience. I grew up in San Diego and have spent a lot of time in Baja, so I was in touch with the reality of what was happening there. I wanted to make sure it was accurate.
Daily Grindhouse: I read the film was shot almost 90 percent on location, and I noticed how it contrasts the beauty of Baja with the poverty and seediness of bus stations and strip clubs. Why was it important to shoot on location?
Daniel Zirilli: There’s a lot of beauty in Mexico, and we wanted to be balanced. That’s why we shot it in real locations. Yes there is a lot of poverty, but there is the beauty of the beach and surfing. We wanted it to be real, and didn’t want to come off as offensive.
Daily Grindhouse: The character Lucy and her uncle change surprisingly from what they initially seem. Was that meant to reflect a sort of survival technique in the city?
Daniel Zirilli: Yes, that can be a tricky concept. I’ve known people who were poor, and you have to have food to eat. We wanted to avoid stereotypes. Lucy is a thief with a heart of gold, she’s just struggling.
Daily Grindhouse: The ticking clock and driving score are conventions that help deliver on the thriller aspect of the movie. How did you use these, or other techniques, to help heighten the suspense?
Daniel Zirilli: Yes, since Michael agrees to smuggle the drugs, he is running against time. We had to constantly move the camera, and keep things moving. One location in Baja, in a tunnel, we had to set up in five different places just to keep the action moving.
Daily Grindhouse: In many ways Michael has to fight the stereotype of the dumb white tourist, though he comes across as smart and resourceful later in the film. What decisions were made to elevate his character?
Daniel Zirilli: Well, Michael’s character thinks he’s in love with Olivia, and that motivates him. He is doing everything he does so she won’t die.
Daily Grindhouse: There is a balance created throughout the film between the intelligence of the Drug Enforcement Agency and and the drug lords and coyote. Was keeping this balance in play intentional?
Daniel Zirilli: Yes, I wanted to show the smart work of both sides, and what the police are doing, and we had some excellent actors who broke stereotypes, especially Tom Sizemore and Jake Vargas as a Tijuana cop.
Daily Grindhouse: The tagline on your script says the story is inspired by true events. What events inspired it, and what were you hoping the audience would take away from this?
Shawn Lock: By true events, I mean stories that I’ve heard traveling through South America, about police characters, and people held for awhile and forced to take a package across the border. That’s how the story was born. The take away is not to scare people, but to tie into the real dangers with drugs in South America.
Daily Grindhouse: The characters are usually a step behind the audience in figuring out reveals (Including Michael figuring out Olivia’s role in the cartel). What purpose does this serve?
Shawn Lock: I’m not sure what purpose it serves the story. In real life everyone has motives, you trust people, relationships have multi-layered intentions. From travel experience, I know people are not always promising exactly what they are giving you.
Daily Grindhouse: Was Michael and Lucy’s connection planned in the story, or what built toward this?
Shawn Lock: Lucy came in late on her way to the consulate. She was capable of looking out for herself and a smart character. After her uncle helped him, she fell for Michael. It was a good thing that happened naturally from the conflict and the trouble.
Daily Grindhouse: Do you imagine the film as a kind of political commentary on the drug war or border conflict, or both?
Shawn Lock: No, I didn’t want to get caught up in making a political commentary, and push the characters into different circumstances. I’ve spoken and lived with people who lived on the border, so I know that’s what happens, but that’s more what drove the action in the movie. Just to touch on it, there’s some graffiti written on the Mexican side of the border that says “We have dreams, too.”
Daily Grindhouse: After all his struggles, Michael buys an “I Love Mexico” shirt toward the end of the film. Why was it important for the movie to show both the beauty and the squalor of Mexico?
Shawn Lock: I come from Belgium, and I’ve traveled – I’ve been to Tijuana, and it’s important to show the beauty of Mexico, even though it has trouble with corruption. And for Michael, he’s been to hell and back and still loves Mexico. And it’s a little sarcastic and there’s a little bit of humor, but it’s about seeing the good things, like Jacob Vargas’ character and the good people there.
Daily Grindhouse: Why was it important that Michael have the final revenge on Olivia (Michael calls the police in their final scene in a gas station together and ties her up while they arrive)?
Shawn Lock: I’m not sure why people see that as him trying to get revenge. It’s more him trying to survive. He has to leave her behind there for the local authorities. He has to make sure she has paid for what she has done and get out alive.