Courtesy of Charlie Minn
8 Murders a Day
In 1990, the annual number of murders in Juárez was in the double digits. Last year, it topped 3,000. It’s statistics like those that catch Charlie Minn’s eye. Minn used to be a sportscaster in Albuquerque, but in recent years he’s become known as a crusading documentary filmmaker. His 2010 film A Nightmare in Las Cruces, about a notoriously unsolved multiple murder in Southern New Mexico, was just released on DVD by Lionsgate. His follow-up film, the controversial 8 Murders a Day, has played in 17 cities so far and will open at the Rio Rancho Premiere Cinema on Friday, Sept. 30. Expanded screenings at the Starlight Cinema in Las Lunas and the Regal Winrock are tentatively set for Oct. 14.
It’s an impressive release for a regional documentary self-distributed by the film’s writer/director/producer. Minn himself nailed down contracts with the Regal Cinemas chain and continues to recruit theaters from New York to L.A. “We’ve been trying to get into Albuquerque for a long time,” says Minn, passing back through Albuquerque and adding “press agent” to his list of credentials.
8 Murders a Day is a terrifying look at the business of death in Juárez. Though the American press typically dismisses the astronomical murder rate as the unfortunate collateral damage of a war between drug dealers, the truth seems much more complicated. By talking to journalists, professors and people in the community, Minn exposes an all-out assault on the poverty-stricken citizens of Mexico by drug cartels, the police and the military. President Felipe Calderón, for example, is usually seen as a hard-line advocate against the drug war. However, the murder rate has soared 70 percent since he took office.
Minn isn’t an elegant filmmaker. He’s no visual poet like Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time). But he’s not afraid to shove his camera down in the dirt. The hot-off-the-newsroom-video-feed information he digs up here is scary and eye-opening. “This is not just a Mexican thing,” assures Minn. “It’s a human rights crisis. This is the most overlooked serious news story right now.” The statistics back him up. El Paso is one of the safest cities in the world. Just across the border, there are eight murders a day. It’ll take more than one movie to “inform and educate” as Minn hopes to do. But it’s a start.