Lost and Found in Mexico

San Miguel streetI loved my profession. I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t “unfulfilled.” I thought I would work until I was eighty. Then my husband David and I took a one week vacation in a small town in Mexico and our lives took a totally new direction. Long story short, I terminated my psychotherapy practice, we sold the house and everything in it and moved to Mexico, where I’ve learned that life is more about the surprises that occur if we just make space for them and pay attention to our inner selves.

After living in Mexico for about three years, I started to have these obsessive thoughts.  I’d wake up each morning and think, “You feel so different.” And the next thought was, “You’ve got to make a documentary film.”  This didn’t make sense to me as I knew nothing about filmmaking – had never even met a filmmaker! But the thoughts wouldn’t go away. One day I just gave in and said to myself, “Okay, already, I’ll do it!”

In retrospect I realize I was trying to understand what had happened to me. I felt different in this new land. I was now comfortable in my own skin. All the psychological study, introspection and therapy hadn’t helped me to get to this point back in the U.S. I had been an anxious, achievement-driven, future-looking being. Was I the only one who felt this way? That’s what I wanted to explore in the making of Lost and Found in Mexico.

I ordered books from Amazon with titles like, “How to Make a Documentary Film.” Within days I had talked to or emailed at least eight filmmakers, cameramen, or heads of production companies. For weeks after, filmmakers from all over the world answered my questions, encouraged me, coached me to “follow my passion.” They warned me not to give up my vision – advice I would hear over and over. I wanted to chicken out. Let these production people San Miguel sunsetdo it. I can’t be a director. My email buddies persisted.  You have a vision. Go for it. Me-- create, produce and direct a film?  What, am I crazy?

The first day of filming comes and I am terrified. I feel like a fraud. I’m almost sixty years old, but then I realized that 27 years in the therapist’s chair is pretty good preparation for getting people to talk. It takes three more years after the last interview is shot, for Lost and Found in Mexico to be finished. There was ecstasy and agony – mostly agony. I refused to be seen or heard in the film. I wanted to say what I was feeling through the interviewees. I hate my voice and my look. I was ashamed of being old and wrinkled. I was sure no one had an interest in a middle-aged woman’s story.  Eventually I recognized that I had to reveal myself. The film was not working without me revealing the deeper, more personal levels of my own change. This was, by far, the biggest challenge.

Lost and Found in Mexico, a film that I made “just for myself” to explore some questions I had, has now been shown in over 24 film festivals world-wide. It won “Best Documentary” in the Boston Film Festival. I’ve been interviewed on NPR and, so far, the film has been purchased by three foreign countries for television.

Who woulda thought?

Caren Cross is a former psychotherapist who wrote, directed and produced Lost and Found in Mexico. She lives in San Miguel de Allende with her husband David. They have two grown children.

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