(directed by Shaul Schwarz, 2013)
**** (out of 5)
> Holy crap– this is rough, tough, uncompromising stuff!
. From the powerful contrast of the first shot, we know we are watching something artful and visceral at the same time. First time director Shaul Schwarz shows us how the glaring dividing-line generated by the stark economic contrast seen north and south of the U.S./Mexico border, creates a whole world of horror and chaos. And this first symbolic establishing shot straddling prosperous El Paso, Texas and the squalor of Juarez, Mexico is a stunner! The bitter inequity painted here in such stark relief perverts human values beyond recognition.
. NARCO CULTURA is a deeply disturbing contrasting portrait of two men whose lives revolve around the vicious world of Mexican narcotic cartels- one from the inside and one from without. One man has the thankless, highly dangerous job of Mexican crime scene investigator, and the other is a musician, capitalizing on the narco trade by writing effusive “corridos”- songs that pander to the swollen egos of individual gangsters, and venerate these murderous thugs as heroes, glamorizing their antisocial lifestyle to a populace that is permanently stuck in the underclass. Resentful of their powerlessness and envious of these highly successful criminals who live life by their own rules, many thousands look up to these amoral monsters and confuse their fear with respect.
. An entire international industry has formed around this sick cult of personality. Tragically, it’s a crossover phenomena- spreading from the poverty-ridden villages of Mexico to the privileged sons and daughters of Hollywood, who should know better than to encourage what amounts to musical hate speech. There is an intellectual disconnect here. To the corrido crowd, it’s just fashion- little more than disposable pop culture. They pay little attention to the true horror of the content. In some places the gangster corrido has been banned, becoming an outlaw music that continues to thrive underground.
. This powerful document is artfully shot and edited, but VIEWER BE WARNED: despite it’s mild “R” rating, the carnage of multiple murder scenes is so casually graphic as to be stomach-churning. THIS FILM HAS SOME OF THE MOST GRAPHICALLY HORRIFIC IMAGES OF HUMAN BRUTALITY I HAVE EVER SEEN and really should have received an “NC-17” rating. Of course, one could not truthfully tell this story without including the ugly residue of violence- but when we see it, the viewer simply cannot forget that they are witnessing the real thing- not movie magic, make-up and special effects- but actual death in all its gruesome banality.
. Do not bother with this fine documentary if you don’t have the stomach for the authentic consequences of violence. (Or you can just close your eyes during these scenes, as I did.) Eyes open or closed, this is extraordinary documentary filmmaking of the highest order!
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