WE’RE ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING you’ve never seen before,” chuckles director Cesar Alejandro one bright morning in El Paso. After he calls for acción, two gangster types come walking out of a mansion, one of them in control and dressed impeccably, the other a standard-issue goon. They talk heatedly in Spanish about wiping out a rival. The scene ends, and the camera shuts off for a few minutes. Then the scene is repeated, with another boss but the same goon—only in English.
For the next few weeks, Alejandro will continue shooting two similar but different movies in two different languages. Having made his name as an actor-director-producer of low-budget Spanish-language action films popular in Mexico and the Southwest, the 37-year-old is trying to ease into a larger field by going bilingual. He’s the only filmmaker in America working this way, and no matter what you say about his “enchilada westerns,” as one of his friends calls his flicks, they have the genuine flavor of the Tex-Mex border.
Alejandro’s latest project, Down for the Barrio (in Spanish, La Pistola Humeante, or “The Smoking Gun”), is his boldest attempt thus far at penetrating the American market. A cautionary tale about gang life, it