Posted on April 1, 2013

Guns, Sex, Drug Cartels, Narco Cinema!

Julian Aguilar, New York Times, March 28, 2013

After the arrest in 2010 of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, who the authorities said was the head of a violent Mexican drug cartel, customers at Video Mexico in Austin told Eduardo Betancourt, the owner, something he should have known: the man’s life was already the subject of a low-budget movie.

Mr. Betancourt’s video-store customers are part of a legion of aficionados of Mexican narco cinema, hastily made films that are inspired by the cartels. The films usually skip theaters, going directly to home video.

“Wherever the news is, that’s when they’ll start making movies,” Mr. Betancourt said. “They may not put them out two or three weeks after the news broke. But six or seven weeks down the line, somebody will have eventually made a movie. The customers are the ones that let me know.”

The films tell violent tales of regional drug lords, complete with portrayals of gunfights, sex, betrayal and corruption. Austin is a growing market for the genre, partly because of the increasing population of Hispanic immigrants and Texas’ proximity to Mexico, where the movies are made.

The movies’ production costs are less than $10,000 each, Mr. Betancourt said. {snip}

Mr. Betancourt began his rental business 12 years ago with videocassette tapes. While he does not rely solely on narco movies to attract customers, they make up a significant portion of his business.

Customers regularly check in to look for new movies that help them feel closer to home.