2013 Sundance Docs in Focus: NARCO CULTURA

narco culturaHeading into the final stretch of this year’s US Documentary Competition: Shaul Schwarz’s NARCO CULTURA, about the impact of Mexico’s drug wars on Mexican and Latino-American pop culture.

Sundance Program Description:

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 manages to capture exquisitely 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.

Some Background:
Schwarz’s background is in photography, with his work appearing in noted publications, from The New York Times Magazine to Stern, National Geographic to GQ. He has previously directed shorts for TV and cable outlets, and his first feature doc, THE BLOCK, was released theatrically in Israel in 2005. His producers are Ocean Size Pictures’ Todd Hagopian and Parts & Labor’s Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy, who have previously been in Park City with KEEP THE LIGHTS ON (2012), HERE (2011), DON’T LET ME DROWN (2009), WILD TIGERS I HAVE KNOWN (2006), and OLD JOY (2006), and also have MOTHER OF GEORGE and AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS from the class of 2013.

Why You Should Watch:
Not surprisingly, given that Schwarz also served as cinematographer, the film is very well-shot. Smartly focusing his story on the corridos musician and CSI agent, Schwarz eases entry into a world likely not well-known to most viewers, but sure to be familiar through traits it has in common with hip hop’s similar glorification of the gang life. The result is an eye-opening introduction to the sway the drug cartels have both north and south of the border, a shocking look at the impunity with which they operate, and the popularization of Robin Hood myths that have grown around them.

More Info:
For more information, check out the film’s website. For Schwarz’s thoughts on his film, check out his Meet the Artists profile for Sundance and Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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