SUNDANCE: Directors Tease 'Dirty Wars,' 'Fire In The Blood,' 'God Loves Uganda,' 'A Teacher,' 'Narco Cultura'
Narco Cultura by Director Shaul Schwarz [U.S. Documentary Competition]
To a growing number of Mexicans and Latinos in the Americas, narco-traffickers have become iconic outlaws and the new models of fame and success. They represent a pathway out of the ghetto, nurturing a new American dream fueled by the war on drugs. Narco Cultura looks at this explosive phenomenon from within, exposing cycles of addiction to money, drugs, and violence that are rapidly gaining strength on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Artfully lensed, Narco Cultura exquisitely manages to capture the horrific devastation wreaked by the drug cartels. Focusing on certain disparate individuals impacted by them, including a narco-corridos singer in the U.S. and a crime scene investigator in Juarez, the film vividly portrays both the allure and the human cost of it all. Photographer/filmmaker Shaul Schwarz has crafted a dazzling, yet harrowing, examination of the viral effect of the violence that has reshaped the face of a country and created an entire subculture that celebrates corruption. [Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival]
Responses by Shaul Schwarz
The Narco Cultura quick pitch:
To a growing number of Mexicans and Latinos in the Americas, narco-traffickers have become iconic outlaws, glorified by musicians who praise their new models of fame and success. They represent a pathway out of the ghetto, nurturing a new American dream fueled by an addiction to money, drugs, and violence. Narco Cultura is an explosive look at the drug cartels’ pop culture influence on both sides of the border as experienced by an LA narcocorrido singer dreaming of stardom and a Juarez crime scene investigator on the front line of Mexico’s Drug War.
…and why it's worth seeing at Sundance and beyond:
Its unique look at an issue that affects all of us, and happening right here at home. Everything that has been done thus far on the drug war has been a talking head-style documentary, with archive footage gathered from different sources. Narco Cultura is a cinema verite doc, shot entirely by one photographer, following the lives of two characters entangled in the drug war. It puts you on the ground, and in the belly of the beast. From the streets of Juarez to the Narco clubs in LA to the living room of a drug lord in Sinaloa, the film gives an audience unprecedented access to the issue. The Drug War has touched the lives of millions, beyond the 60,000 lives it has already claimed. While death statistics have been documented ad nauseam, far less has been said about the broader social reality created by the drug trade. Narco Cultura focuses on the culture shared by millions of Mexicans and Latin-Americans inevitably involved in or affected by the drug trade and a desire for "Narco Luxury."
Managing access and safety:
Getting access while staying safe was the biggest challenge in making this film. We were always pushing to get through the characters’ stories to the heart of the drug war, and for that we needed to win their full trust. After we did that, we needed to be with them in terrifying moments. Even more so, we had to figure out what we didn’t want to cover. It was clear that in order to stay safe and not endanger others we had to draw lines in the sand, and that would later become a reality in the editing room as well. There are many scenes that did not make the cut because we believed they might endanger someone.