Monday, December 27, 2010


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Barrio Norte

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Notes from the Crime Beat: A Message From Los Zetas

Like an image from the Godfather, 'un puerco' left out side the police station with a warning note from the infamous Zetas ended up being a moment of some light relief. Serious, macabre and ominous it certainly is but not such a raw indicator of Mexico's spiraling gang violence as initially expected.

There was much apprehension and stomach churning tension when the radio call came in that there was 'una cabeza' left in the barrio of Bosques de Gana in Mexico City on Thursday night.

Driving through the night time streets, searching block by block as the Nextel relayed details of a potentially grimy crime scene awaiting 'La Nota Roja', the Mexican crime photographers who trawl the city for the aftermath of bloody incidents, the tension only grew, the streets empty, the stores shuttered and the lights off.

Eventually a police officer gave us an indication that 'la cabeza' was waiting on the ground outside the local police station. We drove the final few streets, the photographers preparing their flash guns and long lenses and arrived to find the local police standing in a circle snapping pictures on their mobile phones at the ground. I got out of the car and crossed the street, ready to assess the situation and switch into the mode of making images, taking footage and switching off the reality of the scene that awaited me.

We approached the blanket on the ground, everyone slightly relieved to find not the scene we initially expected.

'Puerco o Puerca?' commented one of the present media by way of a joke, breaking the tension and letting everyone go about their business, documenting this scene, criticizing the grammar of the culprits and chatting with the other police officers and photographers, all night owls for whom these kind of scenes are their daily bread.

The note was a warning for the police and their families to stop interfering with the business of Los Zetas in Mexico City or suffer the dire consequences. Most likely written by young gang members, it's was a reminder that drug cartels appear to be present in all parts of the country now, places previously run and operated by local gangs are being taken over by bigger, more powerful operations.

Ten minutes later we were back in the car, cruising the streets, ignoring the traffic lights and off to wait and see what else the night had in store...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tepito, D.F.

Ciudad Mier: Casulty of Mexico's Drug War

Deserted Main St. in Ciudad Mier, site of a battle between rival cartels © Ross McDonnell

The full Associated Press report on Ciudad Mier, a pretty "Puebla Mexicana" town abandoned by it's some 6000 residents after suffering some nine months of explosive violence between rival drug cartels begins something like this:

CIUDAD MIER, Mexico — Shell casings carpet the road outside a bullet-riddled subdivision on the outskirts of this colonial town on the Rio Grande Valley, abandoned by most of the 6,000 inhabitants following a nine-month battle by warring drug cartels.

Nobody lives in the 65 one-story white houses across the border from Roma, Texas, except the abandoned pets that roam the streets of the Casas Geo development. Like 90 percent of those who once lived in Mier, they have fled to a shelter in the nearby city of Miguel Aleman, Mexico's first such haven for people displaced by drug violence.

While Mexicans increasingly have fled border towns up and down the Rio Grande Valley, Ciudad Mier is the most dramatic example so far of the increasing ferocity of war between rival drug cartels, and the government's failure to fight back.

The state and federal governments say it's safe to go back and that people are returning. One official even invited tourists to return. The scenes witnessed by The Associated Press say something else.

Even during daylight hours, a Mexican army squad patrols the town nervously.

About half the houses in Ciudad Mier have bullet holes. The Casas Geo subdivision seems frozen in time; most residents left in the summer, and it was empty by early November. The houses show how people lived when the battle reached its height: armoires and wooden wardrobes pushed up against the windows, in a vain bid to stop the bullets.

Gaping holes in walls, windows and doors where high-powered ammunition made impact. On the entrance to the subdivision, someone daubed in paint "CDG" and a heart, a reference to the Gulf Cartel.

The empty gun cabinet in Ciudad Mier's destroyed police station.

Ciudad Mier's destroyed police station.

Army patrols guard the main square of Ciudad Mier.

Mexican army checkpoint at the entrance to Ciudad Mier.

The abandoned Casas Geo residential estate in Ciudad Mier.

Ciudad Mier's church reflected in a bullet scarred store window.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sundance 2011: Knuckle, Hell and Back, Let There Be Light

Delighted to see the Ian Palmer's 'Knuckle' made into this year's World Documentary Competition at Sundance. Described as "An epic 12-year journey into the brutal and secretive world of Irish Traveler bare-knuckle fighting, this film follows a history of violent feuding between rival clans" it's a film I've been hearing about with some anticipation for ages.

Congrats to Ian for dedication beyond the call of duty and ditto to Danfung Dennis on his film 'Hell and Back Again' which grabbed our attention with the incredible original footage first used in the PBS Frontline series Obama's War'.

I'm glad Danfung has added something different and unique to the already platinum standard of films about the Afghanistan war, most notably 'Restrepo' and Danish feature 'Armadillo' by focusing on the battle soldiers face when returning from war, something not seen to great effect since legendary director John Huston's post-WWII documentary masterpiece 'Let There be Light' which you can watch in it's entirety below...

Bowie, TX

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Austin, TX.