'To the End of Reckoning,' another Premio Mezcal contender at Guadalajara, which boasts a strong docu presence this year
GUADALAJARA — “To the End of Reckoning” is a fly-on-the-wall docu that tracks a team of forensic investigators who deal with the victims of Mexico’s high crime rate. Helmer/scribe Mauricio Bidault gained access to the Jalisco Institute of Forensic Science to spotlight the men and women in the grim but fascinating trenches of forensic science. Aside from the Premio Mezcal, “Reckoning,” made for a mere $110,000, is also vying for the Ibero-American Docu prize and the Premio de la Academia Jalisciense.
What compelled you to make this documentary?
Like everyone else, I was exposed to the news of drug violence in Mexico. One day, a lawyer friend started telling me about her job as a polygraph coordinator in the state of Jalisco. She told me about a string of cases divulged through lie detectors, a series of mini thrillers that revealed a world of betrayal, abuse of authority, and deceit where the truth would eventually come to light. I was amazed at how a scenario as simple as a room with an interrogator, the interrogated and a machine connected to a computer could reveal aspects so profound and elemental about human nature, and in such a tangible way. I asked a friend to get me in touch with the Institute of Forensic Science in Jalisco and to my surprise, they allowed us to film them.
So they were completely open to you filming them? Had they opened their doors to other filmmakers before?
There have been promotional videos and they’ve consulted on various fiction projects, but this was the first time they would be the focus of a documentary.
What was your main objective in making “To the End of Reckoning?
I wanted to make people reflect on how violence impacts people’s lives; that the victims of the crime in Mexico are not just statistics. People are becoming so desensitized to the violence in our country. I wanted to focus as well on the forensic investigators: on the living, not the dead.
Some scenes are quite graphic. How has the audience reacted so far?
So far, we haven’t had to call for an ambulance. We were very careful with the images. We used them more as references, not as spectacle.
It’s amazing how the investigators keep their emotions in check when faced with some pretty grisly cases.
There is always a psychologist on hand to help them cope. They are very professional and focus on the task at hand. There was that one case when they brought in the bodies of a young woman who had killed herself and her two young children. I could see them, as well as ourselves, struggling to deal with it.
How long did you work on this feature?
Research took up a year, then we shot for four-and-a-half months. It took another year for editing and post-production. We had a lot of footage and left out the most gruesome cases, which I can’t even tell you about. Aside from directing it, I also wrote, edited and even did some camera work.
Did you have nightmares while shooting it?
In the beginning, we had to control our emotions but then we began to see it from their perspective; that these were cases that needed to be solved. That was when it got to be very interesting. Our sound guy probably suffered the most
as he had to hear everything: the cracking of bones, the squish of flesh, while we could shut our eyes when we wanted to.
Who produced it?
My company Erre-Doce Cine produced it with the support of Mexico’s Foprocine film fund, which covered more than 50% of the budget.