Documentary 8 Murders A Day explores the continuing, cartel-fueled violence inborder city Juarez
In five years, over 47,500 people have been killed in Mexico since President Filipe Calderon announced a military crackdown against drug cartels. In Juarez, an average of eight murders are committed a day — murders that remain uninvestigated and unreported outside of the region. America has remained uninvolved with the conflict, despite the fact that cartels use weapons provided by the US — and despite the fact that our appetite for drugs continues to fuel the tragedy.
Now the border community near El Paso, Texas has earned its reputation as the most dangerous city in the world. This unchecked story of violence is the subject of documentarian Charlie Minn’s new film, 8 Murders A Day, opening Friday in Austin.
Minn, a former journalist, became involved while working on a different documentary in Las Cruces in fall 2009. Though Juarez was less than an hour away, Minn said Las Cruces residents were strangely apathetic of the violence. “It seemed only people in El Paso really cared,” he says.
He sees the violence in Juarez as one of the greatest human rights violations in all of history, and hopes his film will reawaken awareness in a population that has become desensitized to the killings.
As violence intensifies in Mexico, Texans especially should be aware of the situation in Juarez. According to Minn, many cartel and gang members are fleeing Mexico into Texas. “They’re in this area now,” he says. “A lot of people from Monterrey have fled to San Antonio… there’s actually a section of San Antionio called Sonterra, which is all people from Monterrey.” Minn explains that Brownsville, Houston, Laredo and even Dallas and Forth Worth have become hubs for escapees.
8 Murders A Day was a complicated film to research. “95% of the murders in Juarez and throughout Mexico aren’t investigated, which begs three questions: who’s getting killed, by who and why? It’s a free for all. The information coming out of Juarez has to be taken with a grain of salt; it’s nebulous at best.” Minn explains that the media are either controlled by the drug cartels or that threats of violence keep journalists from investigating stories fully. (During production, many of Minn’s partners quit without notice, out of fear.)
He thanks El Paso’s El Diario for their continued help with the project. “They were impressed with my sincerity,” he says. “[It] wouldn’t have been made without them.”
Minn’s film explores the macabre history of Juarez, and also poses some solutions for Americans to consider. The most popular, Minn says, is drug legalization, although he doubts this is a probable step the US government will take. Another possible solution would be to intervene militarily; however, the economic impact of the war in Iraq makes this option seem improbable, too. “Mexico needs to govern themselves; they need to get rid of their internal corruption,” Minn says. “But do they want to get rid of this corruption?”
The drug trade has become unimaginably profitable, with cartels now providing services such as building roads or hospitals, according to Minn. “They want to keep a good thing going. This is a very unique war, if you can even call it a war.”
As President Calderone’s regime comes to a close this year, Minn believes Mexico’s future may change drastically. “I think it’s safe to say they want a new leader. His intension was good, but it’s turned into a colossal failure, with nearly 50,000 dead due to violence related to the drug war.”
Minn will be returning to Austin soon, as he hopes to begin work on his documentary on the yogurt shop murders. His goal is to humanize the girls involved in 1991 tragedy. “I want to make them come alive again,” he says. “My films give them voice, and life — which was taken from them by cowards.”
The project is not yet official, as Minn has not gotten 100% approval from the APD. “This movie will create attention and revive something that’s fading,” he says. “A movie keeps an investigation alive…[the tragedy] bothers me to no end, and that motivates me to do something about it.”
8 Murders a Day will open on Friday, January 13 at the Regal Metropolitan theatre.