“8 Murders a Day,” director Charlie Minn's documentary about the drug war-related violence in Juarez, Mexico, takes a stark and brutal view of a border town occupied by drug traffickers and crippled by fear and government corruption.
In 2008, Juarez, which sits just over the border from El Paso, became ground zero in a turf war between two competing drug trafficking operations: the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, which were looking for easy access to the U.S. illegal drug market. Almost overnight, the murder rate in Juarez increased 800 percent as local police were co-opted by the cartels or became targets for the cartels' enforcement wings.
Minn takes on both the violence and the ugly economic fallout from the Sinaloa/Juarez cartel war: since the cartels began fighting one another, 70 percent of Juarez' legitimate businesses have gone under, and the majority of wealthy Juarez citizens have fled to El Paso.
Police and military operations have limited resources in their battle against the cartels, which makes them increasingly susceptible to corruption, and journalists covering the violence put their lives in jeopardy on a daily basis — one newspaper, El Diario, now uses teleconferencing between editors and reporters to minimize the chances that its journalists will be attacked outside their offices or killed in a newsroom bombing. Throughout the documentary, Minn and his interview subjects, notably magazine writer Charles Bowden and several professors from the University of Texas El Paso, take a dim view of how both the U.S. and Mexican federal governments have responded to the crisis. It is a raw documentary built largely from television news footage and interviews and can often feel like a diatribe — Minn relies too heavily on Bowden's ongoing soliloquy rather than including more equally impassioned voices. But because the Juarez violence and the failures of the drug war usually take a back seat in non-border media, “8 Murders a Day” will be a revelation for people who have been insulated from this ongoing disaster.
— George Lang
‘8 Murders a Day'
Starring: Charlie Minn, Charles Bowden.
Screening: Harkins Bricktown 16