In Everardo Gonzalez’ latest doc “El Paso,” the helmer applies focus to what is one of the most evil aspects of the drug trade, the manipulation and murder of journalists and their families. In this pic, he has chosen to look at the takedown of photojournalists on the border between Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas.
Having established himself with prize-winning docs “Los ladrones viejos” (“Old Thieves”) and “Cuates de australia” (“Drought”), Gonzalez edges forward with “El Paso”, powerful and pacey, skillfully shot and well edited.
Gonzalez is perhaps a cornerstone of documentary journalism in Mexico, and Variety sat down with him to talk about where the country is to go.
You are a well-experienced director, and with ‘El Paso’ you have confronted the techniques of intimidation and kidnapping of photojournalists to control the message. What should we do with the drug war?
Firstly, we should break up the criminal state. That would be a first great step. The police should work to help citizens. The military should help the citizens. Impunity is the great problem in Mexico. No one pays for great crimes if you are rich enough. Only the poor pay for justice in Mexico.
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How do you change that?
Just applying the law. The laws are there. But no one executes them.
But how do you apply the law when there is legal immunity for every elected official?
That is one of the great problems in my opinion. It’s tied to global economic policy. Money rules over politics. As long as the state has no government over its domain, then this will continue to be the situation.
That is one of the great problems in Mexico. What is needed is a social democracy … a government that is imbued with the need to help its own people. We need a government that cares about its education system, its own future, as well. Whom does it serve, to whom does it pay out.
There are different kinds of crime and different sets of corruption. Clearly the United States has its own kinds. But it remains important to pay attention to photojournalists who are doing the most important work, and they are supposed to be protected … What is the role of a documentarian, basically our brother and sisters in portraying our world. this is something close to us. So what is our job?
I think our job is to be witnesses first, and then to be people with compassion for the rest of them. We really need to bring solidarity to our sisters and our brothers. So, of course, we are very close to journalists in Mexico, so we are the ones who must protect them. The lack of solidarity is also one of the causes.
You have a capacity for drawing out the natural state of your subjects. What’s the trick? How do you get them to not pay attention to the camera?
It’s very difficult, but it’s a common issue. It’s like visiting the mother-in-law. One must seduce her by respecting her rules, making oneself subject to her boundaries. My work has always involved homes and families that are not my own.
Do you really believe protests can affect anything?
It’s all of us. If we don’t touch their wallets, it doesn’t mean anything. A general strike … If these guys don’t earn anything for two days, then we might feel something. What I mean is that all journalists must be really united with the rest.