Narco Cultura Provides a Sobering Look at Mexico's Drug Culture
The breadth of director Shaul Schwarz's documentary Narco Cultura is staggering.
A hybrid of hard investigative journalism and incisive cultural criticism, the film at its core is about definitions of success and power, and how today those terms are shaped by the shared forces of poverty and celebrity culture.
Schwarz and his crew dot back and forth across the United States and Mexico to show how Mexico's war on drugs (fueled by both artillery easily scored in the U.S., and our insatiable appetite for drugs) has all but decimated the once thriving city of Juárez, turning it into the murder capital of the world.
Graphic crime scene photos and videos illustrate the bloody reality, as everyone from ordinary citizens and beleaguered CSI workers (targets for assassination by cartels) to tatted inmates speak about the toll. It's harrowing stuff. At the same time, the entertainment subculture of narcocorridos (songs about and commissioned by Mexican drug runners, a sort of hybrid of gangsta rap, romanticized reportage, and Old English ballads) have exploded in popularity in both countries, creating superstars who sell out arenas to fans who lustily sing along.
Schwarz's juxtaposition of the human cost of the drug war alongside the glamorization of its henchmen and their brutality is sobering, even depressing, a point driven home by journalist Sandra Rodriguez, who says that the popularity of narcocorridos is "a symptom of how defeated we are as a society."
Narco Cultura opens tonight, Nov. 22, at O Cinema in Wynwood, running through Nov. 30. Tickets cost $10.50. Visit o-cinema.org.
Send your story tips to Cultist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.