There is a crisis in Mexico. While headlines that sensationalize drug cartels and glorify bosses like El Chapo hint at the problem, Julien Elie’s epic Dark Suns reveals the terrifying extent of the violence and its consequences.
Beginning with the individual stories of the apparently arbitrary kidnappings and murders of countless women in the Mexican cities of Juárez and Ecatepec, the story expands across the country and details how the violence has spread to include the journalists and activists attempting to uncover the problem. The criminal justice system proves useless, either unable or unwilling to confront the cartels. Stories of callous police disinterest and the willful neglect by politicians will sound all too familiar to Canadian audiences, echoing the epidemic of uninvestigated cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in this country.
While the details are harrowing, the courage and persistence of the families and survivors of this violence are inspiring. Mothers refuse to give up the search for their missing daughters. One man ventures deep into the desert to exhume unmarked shallow graves in the hopes that one day the remains will belong to his brother.
Shot in stark black and white with a sound design that immerses the viewer in a vivid sense of place, Dark Suns is a thoroughly cinematic experience that honours the lives and deaths it explores, balancing intimate stories with the mammoth scale of this national crisis. -JC
GRAND PRIZE, BEST CANADIAN FEATURE
RIDM (MONTREAL DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL) 2018