by Justin Stokes
Some of the best documentaries are those that expose the hidden dangers of humanity, pulling back the veil of perceived safety to reveal new risks and truths about the world in which we live. But what happens to a society when it begins idolizing evil?
Enter Narco Cultura, a harrowing inspection of the glorified culture of violence created by the Mexican drug trade. Following a crime scene investigator and a Mexican-American musician singing the praises of the drug cartels, we’re taken to the heart of violence in Juarez, Mexico (a former “murder capital of the world”), where the drug trade has become a billion-dollar black-market industry, making even the police afraid. There, we see the horrific aftermath of unsolvable crimes and the progeny of these atrocities in the lifestyles and attitudes painting criminals and crime in a positive light. This tour of murder, extortion, and kidnapping—though a relatively new development—is quickly spilling over into American society, with 60,000 murders since 2006 resulting from the drug war.
This film is a testament to the power of the disturbing image, capturing some of the most haunting moments in a fashion that is all too casual. We’re shown the brutal aftermath of a crime one moment, then switch from the grieving family members of the dead to those celebrating an industry with guns, drugs, and blood money.
A search for humanity, this documentary is perhaps one of the most powerful I have ever seen. Sharing that, it’s also one of the darkest and certainly not a film for everyone. Cartels are profiting off the misery of their communities, and every hour is just another festivity in a Día de Muertos commemorated by savagery.
Narco Cultura is showing at the Belcourt Theatre. For complete listings and more information on the film, visit www.belcourt.org.