‘Narco Cultura’ is a documentary that explores the influence of Mexico’s drugs war on the country’s pop culture.
The enduring drugs-related violence has given birth to a specific music style called narcocorridos, often compared to America’s ganster rap movement.
Israeli documentary filmmaker and photo-journalist Shaul Schwarz, who lives in the United States, has been covering conflicts all over the world. Mexico’s drugs tragedy struck a chord with him.
“One day I woke up in Tijuana, I was covering murder scenes. I drove up to Riverside and saw Edgar (Quintero) for the first time. He was performing with a gun and people were parading around and singing these lyrics, and I was like ‘Oh my God’. I understood that that was something that should be touched and we should think about how we got here, that was the point of the movie,” said Shwarz.
Edgar Quintero, the film’s main protagonist, is the lead singer in one of Los Angeles’ most successful narcocorridos bands.
“The movie is a very strong documentary. It’s about the reality of two worlds. The reality of music and the reality of violence. Shaul (Schwarz) succeeded in portraying that connection in a very powerful way,” said Quintero.
The film follows two main characters: Quintero and Richi Soto, a crime scene investigator, who talks about what it is like to work in Ciudad Juárez, one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
“I’ve grown up as a photo-journalist who has covered a lot of conflict and war, and I thought this was very interesting, and yes, there were dangers because we really did want to take it to the front line. Not with talking heads, not with experts, but really live that feeling,” explained Schwarz.
Quintero rejects accusations that what he does glorifies drugs-related violence: “We’re not glorifying it, we are simply describing the kind of society we live in.”
Screened at a number of international film festivals including Sundance, the Berlinale, and the Sydney Film Festival, ‘Narco Cultura’ is out now in US cinema theatres.