While we’ve seen the headlines and portrayals on TV shows like “Breaking Bad” and movies like “Savages,” the knotty world of the Mexican drug cartels is expansive and far-reaching, going far past the political muscle they pull and the drugs they sling. And the forthcoming documentary “Narco Cultura” delves into another aspect of the trade that you might not know anything about.
Directed by veteran photojournalist Shaul Schwarz and unspooling at both the 2013 Sundance and Berlin film festivals, the documentary explores the Mexican drug cartels’ pop culture influence on both sides of the border, particularly examining how these outlaws and criminals have risen to star-like status. It’s a remarkable look at an intriguing side of a violent, harrowing world. In our A-grade review of the film from Sundance, we called the documentary “gripping, gruesome and arresting; a disquieting look a pop (sub)-culture phenomenon that is mushrooming all over the United States and Mexico.” Here’s the official synopsis:
Despite the soaring rate of cartel-related murders in Mexico, narco-traffickers represent the ultimate models of fame and success to a growing number of Mexicans and Latinos in the Americas. A hugely popular new phenomenon has emerged from the bloodshed, making stars out of musicians whose “narcocorridas” portray the traffickers as glamorous outlaws. Filmmaker Shaul Schwarz spent years as a photographer documenting the drug violence in Juárez, Mexico. As he follows these musicians through their performances and their commissions by gangsters wanting to be immortalized with their own theme songs, he also explores the most devastating aspects of the drug wars—the death and destruction. The personal stories of an LA-based narcocorrido singer and a crime scene investigator on the murderous streets of Juárez further illuminate this disturbingly glorified conflict.
“Narco Cultura” has no exact release date yet, but Cinedigm says a November date will be announced soon. A national rollout will follow, but until then, this exclusive poster gives a taste of what’s to come. Oh, and check out a narcorrido (a drug ballad) that was used on “Breaking Bad” in season two that gives you even more context. Clearly the writers were ahead of the curve.