The documentary Murder Capital of the World debuted in Houston last night at Premier Cinema in Greenspoint Mall. Despite the seemingly over-the-top name, it wasn't a horror flick, but there were several scenes that did manage to horrify the audience. You can't make this shit up.
It would be impossible to make a movie about a topic as hugely complex as the drug war in Juárez, Mexico, without including some blood and gore, but New York filmmaker Charlie Minn used such footage sparingly. He wisely let the facts speak for themselves. No one ran from the theater in disgust. Instead, they stuck around for a Q&A session afterward to discuss the issues the movie brought to light with the filmmaker himself.
Sure, most Americans know they are guilty of turning a blind eye to the corruption south of our border simply because our society allows us to. Minn's movie encourages us, as individuals, to allow that kind of reluctant realization to evolve one step further -- into shame -- because we are fully capable of protesting such inhumanity or even stopping it. But most of us choose to roll another joint and forget about the woes of that world, which is precisely why they exist in the first place.
Our insatiable appetite for marijuana and military might have led Americans to dangerous levels of denial about the role we play as financier of Narco-terrorism, Minn said.
Since it's true that the blights of greed and drug addiction don't discriminate, the movie lays plain the fact that Americans choose to equate border security and racial superiority with patriotism in order to maintain their innocence. But the crux of this doc is is that our government profits from the war on drugs in Tijuana, and does well to encourage Americans not to give two shits about Mexico or its citizens.
The timing of the movie is impeccable. Minn had the cojones to reframe the political agenda of North America on the eve of its nations' presidential elections. Instead of pandering to voters by dehumanizing an entire nation of "illegal aliens," our leaders should use their influence to command compassion and justice for the victims of violence.
"If one American is killed in Juarez, it's all over the news for a week," Minn said. "But when there's a bloody massacre of 40 Mexicans in one night, it doesn't even get a headline. This is discrimination against the Mexican people."
"No one says anything because people and businesses are making money," audience member Angelo Poli said after the movie.
"Are we complacent because our government doesn't mind if we are drugged?" his wife added.
"Mexico did something right by not arming its citizens," said Robert Cruz, a Mexican who grew up in Houston. "But still, they are screaming to defend themselves."
That kind of discourse has been absent from my life in the 25 years I've lived in Houston. As a typical white kid who grew up smoking reefer in the safe suburbs in Mexico's backyard, I am the lazy American Minn's movie is trying to reach. But I do have a conscience, and I can't unsee this shining example of journalism that wouldn't exist without the efforts of such a brave American.
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Had Minn not risked his own life to step across the six-foot fences we paid some Mexicans to build around our Houston homes, and asked them what's really going on down there, and why, and what we can do to help, I don't know if anyone else would have. Shame on us indeed, Houston, that a Yankee had to point out the shit in our own backyards for us to finally admit that it stinks.
Murder Capital of the World will play every day this week at Greenspoint Mall at the following times: 11:45, 1:50, 3:55, 6:08, 8:10 and 10:15. Minn will be available for a Q&A session this Friday after the last two showings. Visit www.murdercapitalfilm.com to view the trailer.