«I would like to be Superman,» says a pool hall owner in the Mexican state of Guerrero, towards the end of Julien Elie’s documentary Dark Suns. He has spent his time outside work in the five years since his brother was kidnapped scouring the hills for the body. Special infrared powers would allow him to simply see through the earth, needless of a pick and shovel. It is not so much the labour that troubles him, though. Searching for a family member is dangerous: so many Mexicans have disappeared that he inevitably turns up other remains. They’re other families’ lost loved ones, but to the corrupt who have buried them there, they are inconvenient evidence, and threats to his own life have escalated. We see him turn up a shoe, with bones. Size four or five, it can’t be his brother’s — just one more of the 32,000 missing (not counting those unreported). His longing for superpowers, such an imaginary, unattainable fantasy, underscores just how helpless he and his fellow citizens are, trapped within an abject architecture of power so deep in its corruption that organised crime and state institutions collude in deadly concert to reign by terror. He carries a copper horseshoe in his back pocket — partly for luck, but also so he can be easily identified should a similar fate befall him. He is just one of numerous individuals offering up verbal testimony in this sprawling, lengthy and devastating film — a piling up of suffering that in its sheer volume of stories achieves a sense of just how pervasively the shadow of violence hangs over Mexico’s population.
Voces sin Eco
Dark Suns is shot in an elegant black and white, respectfully restrained and never sensationalistic in allowing the weight of its cumulative horror to build. It begins in Ciudad Juarez, the most populous city in Chihuahua, infamous for its brutal cartel-related crime that at one point made it the most violent city in the world, and since 1993 subject to an epidemic of femicides. Hundreds of women have been murdered, seemingly with impunity — a phenomenon the film attributes to an initial protest against the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement that then morphed in motive to simply killing for sport. Tied to the larger reign of organised criminality, perpetrators have protection. «We do the work the authorities won’t do,» says a representative of Voces sin Eco (Voices Without Echo), a group of the missing women’s …
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