Shaul Schwarz, Director of Narco Cultura, Spearheads Time Magazine’s Move Into Film

Posted 6:16 PM November 12th, 2013 by Sara Vizcarrondo

Shaul Schwarz risked his life to make Narco Cultura, the upcoming documentary about the Mexican-American Drug War, but he protected himself and his crew by working smart. "I wasn't about opening a case file and finding out who killed who. That's how you get killed."

So Schwarz stepped away from the specific and unprosecuted cases that compose this war (60-70,000 homicides since 2006) to reveal the bigger picture, a situation fueled by US money and guns and perpetuated by policies that “let the bad guys win.”

But the bad guys have been winning (arguably since when Felipe Calderon entered office) and the cycle of violence and crime has found a voice in corridos, the Latin American musical genre previously dedicated to history (or propaganda). They're catchy tunes with lyrics about brave and budding legends, and in narcocorridos those legends are all drug dealers, which means the cartels have an unofficial publicity department. And it's bigger than gansta rap ever could be.

Schwarz began as a print photojournalist and says the transition to filmmaking helps him view “what many describe as a hard time for print media as an exciting time” for the field at large. “There was always this fear that one day technology would make files big enough to render photojournalism (as a service) obsolete. I think it’s turned us into ultimate surfer journalists. I believe in photojournalists turning filmmakers.”

Time Magazine agrees and Schwarz has teamed with Time and their new film department Red Border Films. At first he’s producing a line of short docs and then he has plans for expansion. “They’ve committed to these shorts for a year and hopefully forever.“

According to Schwarz, the same technologies that previously threatened to push journalists out of the field are the ones they should be relying on to create more work. “We have amazing technology. Even with a tiny productions you can have crazy quality. We [photojournalists] have a raw impact and I think if I can work with other photojournalists to help turn the wheel into filmmaking it could be really interesting.”

His inaugural film for Time's Red Border arm was posted in time for Veteran’s Day: it’s a short about a vet severely burned in Iraq who returned to the states and became a stand up comedian. See Healing Bobby

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