Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Los Angeles audiences have just a couple days left to catch Shaul Schwarz's harrowing documentary "Narco Cultura" at the Royal.
Schwarz deftly balances probing looks into two aspects of the drug cartel dominance that has turned Juarez, Mexico, an industrial center well into last decade, into the murder capital of the world, while El Paso, Texas, just across the Rio Grande, rates as the safest U.S. city. He spends a great deal of time with a crime scene investigator in Juarez who has seen several of his closest colleagues murdered and faces regular threats, a fearsome backload of cases, and the knowledge that few if any of the thousands of murders each year result in prosecution, much less conviction. (CSI Juarez makes the work of the CBS franchise seem very ivory-tower by comparison.)
Schwarz's second subject is narcocorrido music, which though banned by Mexican state radio has gained great popularity on both sides of the border, including massive distribution deals with Walmart. These songs depict ruthless and bloodthirsty narcos who torture, shoot and behead anyone in their way. Popular acts play venues like the House of Blues and command $45,000 appearance fees. "Narco Cultura" is sobering and saddening, a tonic to the cap-gun violence of Hollywood movies that can afford to cut away from those left behind.