El Velador

72 minutes

New
This 2011 documentary looks at the city of Culiacan, a drug-cartel stronghold in northwest Mexico where thousands of civilians have been murdered in recent years. The movie contains few shocking images; instead director-cinematographer-editor Natalia Almada conveys the ongoing crisis through shots of depopulated streets, expanding cemeteries, and imposing armed guards (the title translates roughly as "night watchman"). The artful compositions tend to make the subject matter seem vaguely unreal; Almada's true subject isn't the drug war itself but the apathy of outside spectators. Shots of ornate mansions going up on the town's outskirts (to be inhabited by drug lords, presumably) register as the punchline of a very bleak joke. The minimal dialogue is in subtitled Spanish.

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