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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Mexican Narco Cinema

The Vice Guide to Film has started on VBS.TV and the series kicks off with an exploration into the world of Mexican Narco Cinema.

Narco Cinema is literally just that, films about and that are funded by drugs and drug trafficking, and as we know, in Mexico thats a big deal with the drug business being worth around $100 Billon! The films themselves are hugely popular, both in Mexico and the US (many of which are sell most of their units in Wall-Mart). The films are mostly shot quick and on the cheap, with lots of action, guns and trucks!

The film is in 3 parts and follows the history of Narco Cinema, and how it was spawned from cheap B-Movies in the 70s and flourished in the 80s as the 'video home' movement started due to people no longer being able to afford to go the cinema and video (now DVD) becoming a cheaper more accessible medium for the masses (still today only 18% of the Mexican population can afford to go to the cinema).

The film also shows the other, perhaps more troubling, reason for Narco Cinema. It is an industry that is about and financed by the drug lords. These are people that commit mass murder, intimidation, torture, run prostitution, and are partly responsible for the messed up state of Mexico today. However, these are also people that a cherished by the communities they are from and have been mythologized into modern folklore from the Corrido songs of Mariachis and then in the movies of Narco Cinema, so these people are not simply the evil drug dealers ruining peoples lives, they are infact deeply rooted in the culture and everyday life of Mexico.

Although these films (and the making of them) are pretty cool (there all about guns, trucks, girls, drugs and action!) There is a perhaps a troubling dichotomy here, showing that peoples attitudes to tackling drug trafficking needs to be much more complex than simply stopping the dealers, traffickers and suppliers, as these are people that are so entrenched in every aspect of Mexico's economy, culture and infrastructure.

There is also an interesting parallel between the development of the Mexican film Industry and that of Hollywood. If you put the drug thing to one side, these are still movies made really quickly (shot in 2 weeks) and on the cheap, but remain to be popular and as a whole show an entertaining and subversive sub culture, which is something extremely lacking in mainstream Hollywood today. Spending millions of dollars and years in production to make one lame Hollywood romcom where as the Narco Cinema can knock out hundreds of kick ass movies a year and probably sell just as many units as an average Hollywood production, and the Narco Cinema films (although being kinda trashy) are reflecting something in the national culture and conscious. Luckily Mexican film also has directors such as Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alenjandro Gonzales Innaritu (to name only three) who are making truly outstanding and significant films both in Mexico and around the world.

So perhaps Narco Cinema is another important aspect of Mexico's growing and inspiring film industry, by both being awesome, fun trashy filmmaking and also being deeply rooted in the contemporary culture. Yet it also tragic that the culture, society and movies have to exist in such a dark shadow as that of the devastating drug business.

Watch The Vice Guide to Film - Mexican Narco Cinema (part 1)...

Q. Who can afford to buy these kinds of clothes?

A. Usually people with money. Congressman, business men, oilmen, drug dealers...those kinds of people.

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