The bodies in the cemetery in Culiacán, Mexico are numerous. Many of them died young, victims of Mexico’s drug wars. Gang members and police officers, bystanders and wannabes, the dead appear sometimes in reports on the TV that the cemetery’s watchman runs at night, by way of a makeshift antenna. He listens and you hear that some 11,000 have been killed this past month alone, some 21,915 so far during Felipe Calderón’s presidency. You come to realize, late in Natalia Almada’s superb El Velador (The Night Watchman), that the year is 2009. It’s a year when Arturo Beltrán Leyva has been killed, “the capo of capos,” gone. But the process goes on, the deaths accumulate, and debts, so vigorously pursued, remain unpaid. The film—airing 27 September as as part of PBS’ terrific POV documentary series, and online starting 28 September—offers impressions of death and life too, shots of mausoleums under construction and children playing as their mothers clean gravestones. It also poses questions, focusing on the expansive land of the cemetery, so soon to be filled, the workers who do fill the empty space, on the sky and ground littered with structures. All serve as memorials to lives and deaths.
See PopMatters’ review.