September 2016

By Justin Stokes


The business of drugs is often referred to as a victimless crime. But how many innocent people are victimized by the drug business?

POV documentary Kingdom of Shadows shows the real casualties associated with the billion-dollar enterprise of the US-Mexican drug market. From lmmaker Bernardo Ruiz comes a sibling
to films such as Reportero—his Emmy®-nominated 2013 POV documentary about the bloody consequences that the media faces when they go against the cartels—and Narco Cultura. Kingdom of Shadows follows a triad of tales from a former drug smuggler, a law enforcement officer, and a nun who is trying to help nd the 27,000 Mexicans who have gone missing due to drug abductions in the last decade.

There is so much to appreciate with this film. It’s journalism at its bravest, with the production risking harm to bring the public a truth not available anywhere else. The triple story narrative keeps it from being overly focused on the vice of “doing drugs” and instead shows the many failures of a country that sees farmers and soldiers working for pure evil.

Viewers also have to prepare themselves against quite a bit to watch Kingdom. Not everyone has the constitution to learn what “narco kitchens” are and what their work produces. The imagery in the lm looks “close enough for government work” to the news clips shown in the film. There’s also so much to explore here that the option of something serialized is instead condensed to give you a brief look. It is not an easy documentary to watch unless viewers are really wanting to see the darkness within society. But it is a fair look at what happens when the instruments of justice become blunted by corruption that shows a real threat going on near the borders.

Kingdom of Shadows makes its premiere on national television through Nashville Public Television on Monday, September 19, at 10 p.m. For further information on the lm as well as NPT’s other POV selections, visit NPT’s website

Justin Stokes is the founder of the MTSU Film Guild, a student organization which functions as a production company for student lmmakers. He is a lmmaker, screenwriter, and social media manager.

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