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Xolos: The Border Experience and a Move to Television

Xolos: The Border Experience and a Move to Television

A conversation with Club Tijuana documentarian Chris Cashman.

An award-winning documentary on Club Tijuana is now hitting the small screen.

Initially released as Club Frontera back in 2016, Xolos: Tijuana’s Team is a 44-minute version of the original documentary which covers Xolos’ unprecedented rise in Mexican soccer and the team’s far-reaching significance within the Tijuana community. The updated film, which now includes new footage, will be shown across numerous Fox Sports affiliates in the United States during the next several weeks.

Directed by Chris Cashman, the documentary is a flawless and beautiful feature which dives into much more than just Mexican futbol. As seen in the production, Club Tijuana’s impact on the city is far greater than what is only seen on the field.

Spoiler Alert: There may or may not be a certain league championship in 2012 which helps tie everything together.

In an interview with The San Diego Chronicle, Cashman opened up about the documentary process with Xolos, his adoration for the Tijuana region and the exciting potential of another similar project.

 Xolos training. Image via Club Tijuana

Xolos training. Image via Club Tijuana

“I wasn’t just going to just make a sports documentary,” said Cashman in a conversation earlier this week. “I had no interest in the records that were broken or the amount of goals that were scored. I wanted to show something more personal, I wanted to show the Tijuana culture.”

On the surface level, it’s easy to at first assume that the documentary from the San Diego native is only about soccer. Although many fans will be eager to watch the details of the sporting history of Club Tijuana, Cashman’s film isn’t afraid to look past the eye-catching Estadio Caliente and focus on the more humble surroundings outside of the stadium.

“Sports people will enjoy it, but also those that have no interest in sports whatsoever will enjoy it as well because of the human angle. Showing the compassion, the people and their day-to-day lives. It also educates people on the geography of where we are.”

The border experience is one of the central themes of the documentary, and as the filmmaker tells it, his fondness for the city on the frontera had a noteworthy role in the aim of the project.

“I really wanted to focus on all the reasons why I love Tijuana. There is much more good down there than bad. There are problems, everyone knows that, but there are also so many documentaries that only focus on the negativity. There’s a lot more good people and people with good intentions that are just living their lives down there in harmony,” explained Cashman.

“I think also my own personal history with Tijuana -- I wanted to incorporate that. I’ve always loved the city. For me, it’s an extension of San Diego.”

Of course, this was all easier said than done when it came to working with Club Tijuana.

Numerous Mexican soccer teams, Xolos included, aren’t exactly well-known for their easy access. In order to truly gain the trust of those involved in the organization, the filmmaker had to be patient.

“It was tough in the beginning, they looked at us as regular reporters. Access was very limited, so it took a little digging, took some persistence. I think what really helped is that they saw some of the interviews we were doing and how we were setting up. They knew this was something unlike else that had been done.”

“It did take some time,” noted Cashman. “Sometimes it took a couple of interviews to really get the confidence and to really get them to a point where they would open up. It took us a good year-and-a-half, two years, before we met [club owner] Jorge Hank Rhon. I ended up having an hour-and-a-half interview with Jorge Hank.”

As the production progressed, so did Cashman’s realization of the size and scope of Xolos’ popularity and importance for countless fans within the border region.

“When I started, I was thinking I would crank this thing out in a year. Soccer, Tijuana, we’ll tell the story --- but I went down a rabbit hole. It took me on an adventure. I was introduced to so many different people that opened up new stories.”

After filming a long list of anecdotes and opinions from fans, players, coaches and a wide array of figures from both sides of the border, the documentary was eventually showcased in 2016.

xolos_poster_v5 copy.jpg

“The film was originally released in March 2016, at the San Diego Latino Film Festival. From that point we knew that we wanted to do the festival route. It played in Europe three times and all over the United States in other festivals.”

Club Frontera quickly picked up festival nominations and awards across the country, and a little over two years since its debut, the documentary is now available to the masses through television.

“We always thought we would self-distribute to some degree, whether it be DVDs or some sort of VOD [video on demand] platform, so there were always other options, but then when there was talk of Xolos potentially partnering with ESPN a year-and-a-half ago, that’s when we really started focusing [on moving to the small screen].”

“They [Xolos] opted to go with Fox. It was the right fit for the team and it was the right fit for us,” said Cashman. “I never thought I would be saying this five years later, that the film is now getting distributed.”

For those who didn’t get a chance to watch Club Frontera during its festival circuit, there is now an exciting opportunity to watch the shortened television version known as Xolos: Tijuana’s Team.

“Over the next month and a half, it’s going to play over 100 times on Fox Sports, FS2, Fox Deportes, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Sports Prime Ticket and local Fox Sports channels in the southern regions of the United States,” stated the director.

"This story about Tijuana is reaching out to the complete opposite side of the country. Same with Mexico, people south of Tijuana are learning a little on what this is all about.”

After years of work put behind production and touring with the film, it was clearly a thrill for Cashman to be able to see his much-loved project on the small screen.

It might not be a stretch to say that it continue to feels surreal for the filmmaker either.

“It’s awesome. The first night we watched it on Fox Deportes at [producer] Eddie Cahan’s house. We’ve all seen the film so many times, but to just watch it with commercials and seeing the little logo in the corner --- you’re like what the hell? Is this real? Is this really happening?

As for the future of another potential Xolos documentary, perhaps a sequel of sorts, Club Tijuana fans might need to wait a bit of time before another project is underway. “Another full on documentary about them? I think I’ll need to revisit that in about 10 years,” replied Cashman.

For the time being, it makes sense why another documentary will need to be put on hold for now.

It’s easy to forget that the impressive soccer team from south of the border is only 11 years old. After chronicling the organization’s swift and extraordinary rise through the Mexican second and first division, it is best to take a step back and see what develops.

All that said, there is a possibility for another Xolos-related proposal which might soon become a reality.

“I just got off a call with a producing friend of mine up in Los Angeles, and we’re in the works to try to create a reality show for Xolos,” stated Cashman.

“It’s the early stages, but we feel that it would be great because of the multicultural aspect of it. Whether it be the players, administrators or whoever wants to jump on board this, I think it has potential. Chivas are working on something right now with Netflix, a reality show, but I think that would be more based in Mexico. Granted, we know, there’s a huge following for them [Chivas] here in the States.”

“But Xolos, we’re right here on the border,” replied the filmmaker. “You have the Mexican side, the American side, it would make great television. We’ll see.”

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