Monday, Feb 18 2013 10:00 PM

Filmmaker's final Ciudad Juarez film to play in Bakersfield

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Filmmaker Charlie Minn has seen a lot of horror during the making of his documentaries covering the drug war in Mexico, specifically in Ciudad Juarez.

But his third and final film covering the drug war shows some hope as Juarez, which once averaged more than 10 killings a day, is now averaging about one killing a day. "The New Juarez" examines the possible explanations for this decrease even as other cities, such as Monterrey and Acapulco, continue to deal with the same amount of violence.

"Things are still really bad in Mexico," Minn said.

The film opens in Bakersfield Friday at Maya Cinemas.

Minn's previous film, "Murder Capital of the World," played at Edwards Cinemas in Bakersfield, and Minn has said he's specifically targeted Bakersfield as a site for these films because of its large Hispanic population. There are probably many residents who know people affected by the violence in Mexico, he said.

As for the effect his Mexican drug war trilogy has had on him, he said there have been good and bad results. On the one hand, he thinks seeing the situation in Mexico has made him a better humanitarian, but there have been what he calls "bad psychological effects."

Still, he thinks overall he's a better person because he "considers himself lucky to live in a country where there is law and order, for the most part."

Minn attributes the decline in violence in Juarez in part to its new police chief, Julian Leyzaola. He describes Leyzaola as a "supercop" who went to Juarez to duplicate the success he had fighting crime in Tijuana.

Ciudad Juarez has been averaging a murder a day for the past seven months, Minn said. Meanwhile, large parts of the rest of the country continue to suffer.

Minn believes the United States needs to examine its policies regarding the war on drugs and the effect it's having on our neighbors to the south.

"My heart bleeds for the innocent Mexican people who never asked for this war," he said.

Bill Goodykoontz, film critic at The Arizona Republic, gave "The New Juarez" a positive review in mid-December.

"While the film is certainly interesting, and Minn has greatly improved as a storyteller and director, it may have benefited from the passage of a little more time," wrote Goodykoontz, noting that Minn's previous film had opened earlier the same year.

Minn said he's looking forward to tackling another topic. The Juarez trilogy represents a career milestone for him.

"I'll probably never make a trilogy again," he said.

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