Narco-capitalism has significantly modified the rural environment in Mexico. More than 40,000 acres of Indigenous forest in Michoacán have been appropriated by narco industries, turning it into a a composite site of cartel-drug crimes and state-sponsored violence. Blending performance with observational approaches and ethnography, this documentary provides a glimpse into Indigenous rural Mexico at the intersection between ecocide, narcolabour and enforced disappearance.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Victor Arroyo
Why did you make your film?
We all are familiar with images of violence as a result of the crusade against drug cartels in Mexico. I'm familiar with these conflicts as well. Members of my family in the state of Michoacan have been kidnapped and even murdered. The reason for making this film is both political and personal, as memories of the pastoral landscapes of my childhood clashes against images of extreme violence.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
As the drug war in Mexico burst into news outlets and thousands of screens and networks all over the world, little has been discussed about the particular geographic location and the ethnicity of both the people involved and affected. The state of Michoacan, which is the birthplace of the Mexican government war against drug trafficking, has a population of around 150,000 Indigenous Purhépechas. This is not a coincidence. The state of Michoacán has a long history of exploitation against its Indigenous communities and extractivism of their natural resources. Illegal logging, state-sponsored violence and drug-related crimes in Michoacan are very well known in Mexico but little exposed, pushing the Indigenous Purhépechas to become both slaves and accomplices of those crimes.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I’m attempting to find alternative ways to see violence, making visible the unspeakable and the inaccessible, beyond a heightened awareness of the events depicted.
Unlike a journalist, who generally sticks to the factual and the historical, my intention as a documentarian is to present a series of cinematic descriptions of what it means to live in Mexico in this precise moment. How does the personal intertwines with the political?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I never truly know what the film is about until I get to the very last stages in the editing room. Of course, this makes it very difficult to gain production support. As cultural and entertainment industries have been infused by neoliberal processes of production that demand deadlines, script development, media dissemination strategies and deliverables, my films requires continuous financial support, even as filming has started. My films continuously evolve, there is never a definitive script.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Unsurprisingly, female audiences were very touched and shocked by witnessing the femicide portrayed in the film. I just couldn't leave untouched this outrageous side of the narco-war in Mexico, the extreme crimes against women. Of course, this brings many ethical questions, most of them, unfortunately yet to be answered by documentary artists and filmmakers.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Portraying violence is always challenging. Images that make violence visible should always consider the ethical and political intricacy between those who are depicted, those who depict, and those who witness the depiction. Is it a greater tragedy to have violence without image, to remain unseen? My film attempts to ignite this kind of conversations.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I am concerned in reflecting about the nature of political art. To think about the dissemination of images and the political implications of such consumption. As such, I'm trying to engage audiences and filmmakers alike with such questions.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Film festival directors, journalists.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I am interested in having a conversation about what kind of knowledge is gained from documentary practices? What possibilities and limitations emerge?
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
How can the pain of others be better expressed, considering the production, dissemination and agency of their suffering?.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I'm finishing 'After the Forest', a documentary feature length to be released in 2020. This film is about the Indigenous Purhépechas in Cherán, Michoacan, Mexico, which in 2011 took up arms and fought directly against drug-related violence, organized crime and illegal logging that dominated the area. They assumed political control over the town, expelling police force and other forms of state control. The Mexican government has officially recognized Cherán as an autonomous Indigenous community.
Interview: November 2018
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Time is out of Joint
Narco-capitalism has significantly modified the rural environment in Mexico. More than 40,000 acres of Indigenous forest in Michoacán, mx., have been appropriated by narco industries, turning it into a a composite site of cartel-drug crimes and state-sponsored violence. Blending performance with observational approaches and ethnography, this documentary provides a glimpse into Indigenous rural Mexico at the intersection between ecocide, narcolabour and enforced disappearance.
Director: Victor Arroyo
Writer: Victor Arroyo
Producer: Victor Arroyo
About the writer, director, producer:
VICTOR ARROYO is a video artist working at the intersection between documentary, video art and installation. His approach collapses the boundaries between documentary and fiction, opening up possibilities within reality, fiction and interpretation. His work has been exhibited most recently at The Canadian Centre for Architecture, Cinémathèque Québécoise, Sheffield International Documentary Festival, RIDM Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal, Santa Fe International New Media Festival, among many others.
Cast: Mario Arroyo, Motomoto Sanchez
Looking for: Film festival directors, journalists.
Funders: POLLO, Canada Council for the Arts; MITACS Globalink Research Award; MEES Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement Supérieur, Canada; MERST Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, Recherche, Science et Technologie, Canada; Concordia University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Canada;
Made in association with: El Colegio De Michoacan, Centro de Estudios en Geografia Humana, Mexico 2015 – 2018; Talent Lab 2017, RIDM Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal.