Film examines Juarez violence
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Apr. 6, 2012
The drug-fueled violence in Juarez is a big, complicated problem. That much is certain from watching Charles Minn's somewhat fevered documentary "Eight Murders a Day," whose title refers to the average homicide rate in the Mexican city, which sits just across the border from El Paso.
Is it merely one drug cartel attacking another rival cartel - along with innocent bystanders? Is it the U.S.-funded Mexican army executing suspected traffickers - often with impunity and unaccountability? Or is it a thinly disguised class war, waged by the Mexican government on an underclass it has created through its own reliance on the drug economy and the so-called "neoliberal" policies of the United States, which have forced Juarez's people into narco-trafficking because they can't make a living wage in the American-owned factories there?
Minn lays out - or, rather, hammers on - all the issues through a combination of grisly news footage, opinions by talking heads and an over-reliance on on-screen titles, most of which simply tally the mounting body count.
But while he listens carefully to local reporters, mourning family members and analysts who all tend to agree with each other that it is a huge, huge mess, Minn gives short shrift to politicians who might be in a position to do something about it - mainly Mexican President Felipe Calderon. One of Minn's favorite commentators, writer Charles Bowden, essentially calls him a war criminal.
Why should we care what those people think, the film suggests, if they haven't been able to fix anything yet?
Other than arguing that Calderon needs to go, "Eight Murders a Day" offers little in the way of a solution. Bowden, however, does. He proposes, near the film's conclusion, that the whole issue might magically go away with an end to NAFTA (which the film argues has created a Mexican slave industry), the withdrawal of U.S. funding to the criminally complicit Mexican military and the legalization of drugs.
That might work, but the unrealistic prospects of the third proposal ever getting off the ground suggest that the carnage will not end any time soon.
Contains images of bloody corpses and brief, mild obscenity.