November 18th, 2013

Video Pick: Shaul Schwarz’s Two-Year Journey into Narco Culture

Shaul Schwarz’s documentary on drug cartel violence in northern Mexico opens in theaters in New York and Miami on November 22, and will be shown in other cities starting December 6.  Schwarz, a photographer and cinematographer represented by Reportage by Getty Images, spent two years making the film. You can see a trailer for the film, “Narco Cultura” here on the website www.narcoculture.com and on YouTube.

“Narco Cultura” looks at the toll of drug violence from several perspectives. For example, he visits Juarez, Mexico, to see what may be the busiest crime scene investigation unit in the world. He also explores the scene surrounding narcocorrido music, and follows one musician, Edgar Quintero, leader of a band that plays for fans both north and south of the US/Mexico border.  And it shows those who are left to grieve after acts of violence and retaliation.

Schwarz recently talked to PDN about how he got the film into festivals, for our article, “5 Steps to Promoting and Distributing Your Film.

The movie was shown at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. An interview with Schwarz about the making of the film can be viewed on the Sundance Institute website.

April 26th, 2013

Body of Newspaper Photographer Found in Saltillo, Mexico

Daniel Martinez Bazaldua, a photographer with the newspaper Vanguardia, was found dead yesterday in the northern Mexico City of Saltillo, the Associated Press reports. He had been missing since Tuesday, when he left the Vanguardia office in the afternoon.

The bodies of Martinez Bazaldua, age 22, and another man identified as Julian Zamora, 23, were found dismembered on a street. According to state prosecutors, the body parts were dumped along with a  hand-written message saying that the Zetas drug cartel was responsible for the killings. Saltillo is located in northern Coahuila, a state where Zetas is known to operate.

Coahuila state Attorney General Homero Ramos told reporters that investigators had indications both men “were participating in illegal activities.” Vanguardia, which hired Martinez a month ago to shoot for its society pages, rejected the attorney general’s claim, which was made before any criminal investigation into the murders.

In a statement issued yesterday, Carlos Lauría of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said, “It is irresponsible for authorities to reach conclusions before conducting a full investigation.” CPJ called on Mexican authorities “to fully investigate this crime, examine all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice.”

CPJ reports that according to a Vanguardia editor who asked to remain anonymous, “Photographers covering the society section in Mexico have been targeted by organized crime groups in the past for inadvertently capturing images of cartel members, according to CPJ research.”

In May, three news photographers who covered organized crime and drug violence in Veracruz were found dead and dismembered.
CPJ reports that more than 50 journalists have been killed or disappeared in the last six years

Related Article
Three News Photographers Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico

June 1st, 2012

Fleeing Violence against Journalists, Veracruz Photographer Seeks Asylum in US

A photojournalist from Veracruz, Mexico, is seeking political asylum in the US following a wave of killings of journalists who have covered drug trafficking in the violence-ridden Mexican state. The El Paso Times reports that Miguel Angel Lopez Solana, a photographer for La Jornada, a daily newspaper in Mexico, has decided to seek political asylum for himself and his wife almost a year after members of his family –who were also fellow journalists–were murdered.

The photographer’s father, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a columnist at the Veracruz paper Notiver, his brother, Misael Lopez Solana, a photographer with Notiver, and his mother were shot and killed in their home on June 20, 2011.

Last month, three news photographers who covered organized crime in Veracruz were found murdered; their dismembered bodies showed signs of torture, according to the Veracruz police.

Miguel Lopez Solana himself was kidnapped and threatened at gunpoint in 2009 over his coverage of the police beat.

Fearing for his life, he recently contacted Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, and received a visa to travel to the US. He will file a request for political asylum later this month in Houston, according to his lawyer, Carlos Spector, who has represented other Mexican journalists fleeing anti-press violence in Mexico.

At a forum on press safety held May 23 in Austin, Texas, Lopez Solana told the audience, “They aren’t just killing us journalists, they are drawing and quartering us…We are living in terror.” The Texas Observer reports that Lopez Solana said his colleagues back in Veracruz feel isolated and afraid. “They are traumatized and living in fear. It’s way beyond any fiction you could ever imagine.”

Committee to Protect Journalists reports that since 2006, 45 journalists have been killed or disappeared in Mexico.

(Thanks to Emphas.is for alerting us to Lopez Solana’s story.)

Related story
Three News Photographers Found Murdered in Veracruz, Mexico