(Human Rights Watch/First Run Features)
C+ Sound: C Extras: C+ Documentary: B
Features’ underrated Human Rights Watch series continues with the Scott
Dalton/Margarita Martinez documentary La
Sierra (2004), a harrowing and poignant look at teens/young adults growing
up in Medellin, Colombia and splitting up territory as part of one of two
paramilitary groups for two rival political factions. All this in a country best known (for all the
worst reasons) for their famous drug cartel.
However, besides the exposing of their exploitation by unseen power
elites, we also see that they are oblivious to some of the “tough guy Gangster”
culture trappings that we hear and see bantered and boasted about in the U.S.
matter of fact, since they are living it, they take it for granted and do not
have to try so hard. The result are
innocents caught up in a mess they would have a greater chance of getting out
of because first world media has not warped their minds to the idea that this
is acceptable behavior and with opportunity could (would) even more likely
choose a better way out.
compares it to City Of God and
similar French and U.S. (think Larry Clark or the uneven Alpha Dog) films, but they can become quickly contrived imitating
everything from Hollywood Gangster formula to Hip Hop clichés. There are killings, but in a country where
carrying submachine guns are as common as UPS deliveries, it sadly becomes too
tolerated for its own good. In the end,
we learn much about the main subjects in depth and land up asking why they
tolerate it and why the U.S. tolerates what it tolerates in youth violence.
common denominator. The U.S. has,
particularly since the 1980s, areas of poverty that resemble third world
countries (think about infant mortality and all the social programs cut) and if
you want to know what causes this kind of trouble to breed, know it is not the
young adults alone. After all, they do
not manufacture the guns and process the drugs.
La Sierra ultimately echoes a
worldwide problem and the failure of the great nations large and small to
secure as much of the future for the next generations as possible instead of
allowing a world where children sell and use drugs. Some of it is personal choice, but to think
it is entirely that is delusional.
X 1 image was shot in analog video and looks like news footage at first, but
the combination of editing and more intimate moments finally give away that
this is a documentary and shows us a place we have never really seen before,
despite what we have heard. The Dolby
Digital 2.0 is surprisingly weak, despite the addition of music in
post-production and the usually decent recording of dialogue. Must be a production glitch. Extras include text notes & text
filmmaker biography, text on Human Rights Watch and six trailers including nor
for this release.
- Nicholas Sheffo