Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Drug Wars: Silver or Lead

I became aware of this documentary after it played at The Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival. On the film's website they refer to that festival as The Bayou City International Film Festival. I've never heard of any of them, but likewise they've never heard of me so we're even.
Drug Wars mines territory from which most investigative essays would steer clear. The specifics concern gangs and cartels that smuggle drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border. Interviews include people involved in the drug trade as well as officials trying to control same, in addition to people whose lives have been aversely affected by the violence this scene produces. Archival footage details efforts in smuggling for the last couple of generations. To its credit Drug Wars is never snide about government attempts to coral the problem, although it's also clear that such efforts are in themselves part of a cover-up.
Where Drug Wars starts to become long in the tooth is the dramatic recreations that instantly remind the viewer of bad reality television programming. The film's more powerful scenes, like forensic footage of gang violence, are lessened by juxtaposing them next to these obvious recreations.
Drug Wars covers areas as diverse as the battles between gangs in Laredo and grade school kids using an addictive knock-off called Cheese. When the film ends with what appears to be an actual mob murder recorded on videotape one gets the feeling that the producers were only interested in sensationalizing their subject to the point of offering the audience a snuff film rather than a balanced expose.

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