DRUG WAR: A respectful and sensitive dedication Mexico’s dead and missing.
Astra Zoldnere
Zoldnere is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: July 28, 2019

Org: Soleils Noirs)Country: Canada


The epic documentary Dark Suns reveals a shocking picture of contemporary Mexico, the country where drug cartels have essentially taken over. These lawbreakers kill thousands of people every year and rarely get convicted. Julien Elie’s Mexico is a nightmare where anyone can disappear, anybody can get killed, and everybody is in constant danger. Criminals produce mass graves while countless people look for the bones of loved ones.

An ode to death

The dead have a special place in Mexican tradition. Already, Sergei Eisenstein filmed the Day of the Dead – a Mexican holiday where people come together to honor those who have died and help them on their spiritual journey – for his visually stunning documentary Que Viva Mexico. In the unfinished film’s epilogue (1979 version), we see a grotesque party. Gorgeous women dance with oddly masked skeletons, the dead kiss each other and happy children eat skull-shaped cookies.

Elie takes another aesthetic approach. Although Dark Suns is composed of visually impressive black-and-white shots, the overall tone is much different. Instead of celebration, we witness hopeless struggle. In the film’s beginning, a woman’s voice reveals that many parts of Mexico are a huge mass grave, and during the movie, we come to realize that she is not talking metaphorically. Around 40,000 people have mysteriously vanished in Mexico since the 1970s. Many victims are still risking their lives and looking for family members. Others share painful details about the deaths of their loved ones.

Everybody is a target

The monumental two-and-a-half-hour documentary is divided into six chapters, each focusing on a specific victim group. The first part is dedicated to femicide – the killing of young women because of gender. The following chapters reveal other typical targets are children, journalists, human rights activists, priests, and immigrants. Basically, anyone can be kidnapped or killed by these organized crime groups.

These strong and determined people do the job policemen and politicians avoid.

Many relatives of the murdered and missing have become activists who, despite the harsh environment, keep asking questions and investigating the brutal crimes. These strong and determined …


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