“Did Pancho Villa really try to kill my grandfather? And if so, why?”
In unraveling this mystery, filmmaker Stacey Ravel Abarbanel delves into memory, history, and contemporary life in the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, famed for being raided in 1916 by Villa’s army during the Mexican Revolution. While scholars have long debated why Villa attacked the village, one rumor persists: he was angry at Sam Ravel—a Jewish immigrant and local merchant—over an arms deal gone wrong. This probing-yet-delightful journey unfolds during the annual raid memorials, including the Cabalgata Binacional Villista, a magnificent cavalcade of equestrians who journey through Mexico for weeks in Villa’s hoof steps to join American riders on the border, turning the memory of a bloodbath into a festival of friendship. Broadening the mainstream narratives of both Jewish immigration and the borderlands, UnRaveling reveals an unusual personal history while examining broader, longstanding sagas about the border region—geopolitics, family, immigration, commerce, and culture, then and now.
Directed by Jeff Swimmer and Stacey Ravel Abarbanel