LA VIDA LOCA- The price of breaking the silence

     |    Friday, der 10. January 2014

Christian Poveda spent 16 months shooting a film about two rival criminal gangs in El Salvador. The result is LA VIDA LOCA, a documentary where the director and his hand-held camera get fully into the lives and witnesses their daily worries, conflicts and even homicides. Soon after the release of the film on September 2, 2009, Poveda was murdered in El Salvador.

Just as Arturo Pérez-Reverte pointed out in his book “Comanche Territory”; “the eternal dilemma when being at the battle field is that, if you are too far away you don’t get the image, but if you get too close, you might not be able to explain it later”. Many journalists put themselves so close to the fire that finally got burned. But, I am sure that all of them would have done it again, even if they had known what was coming because, the will to portray, reveal or denounce real events is much more powerful than the fear of any possible risk.

Christian Poveda survived to the war of Lebanon, the conflict between Iran and Iraq, and the Intifada, but getting too close to the criminal gangs in El Salvador cost him his life. LA VIDA LOCA is a unique testimony of one of the biggest social problems in Latin America. After three years of research, Poveda spent more than 16 months shooting the two of the country’s most important “maras” (criminal gangs): M18 and Salvatrucha. The camera gets up close to their homes, their relationships, their crimes, and their funerals. In an interview for BBC World, he assured that “they were interested because the members of the gangs were a bit fed up with journalists who got there, stayed two hours, took pictures looking for amazing things, and left”.

Many people do not want light or attention shed on their activities. In this case we are talking about criminal gangs, but, often, it is really powerful people in society who have the most to hide. Thus, there is an extensive list of journalists who were murdered for revealing information about irregular actions. For example; Guillermo Bravo Vega, from Colombia; Marlene García-Esperat, from The Philippines; Manik Chandra Saha, from Bangladesh; Valery Ivanov y Alexei Sidorov, from Russia, and Khalid W. Hassan, from Iraq. Also, journalist and activist Anna Politkóvskaya, who was shot to death in her apartment building in 2006 after years of revealing all sorts of human rights violations in Chechnya and in Putin’s Russia. The documentary ANNA, SEVEN YEARS ON THE FRONTLINE (in, by Masha Novikova, is an homage to her. In the book “Murder Without Borders”, the journalist Terry Gould analyzes the reasons why all of them where willing to go inside the lion’s den without reservations; “all of them believed passionately in the principle that the powerful must be prevented from oppressing the weak”.

War has also claimed many communicators in its path, such as Tim Hetherington, photojournalist and filmmaker, who won the World Press Photo of the Year (2007), and directed “Restrepo” (2010), an extraordinary documentary about the war in Afghanistan. After portraying extreme political situations and wars in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Afghanistan, Hetherington died in 2011 during the war in Libya.

Passion, determination, and the will to break the silence is what took these journalists to the grave. Unlike other professionals, true journalists are journalists during all hours of the day and night. The will to be a journalist and to report is something they carry inside, a state of being of which they will never be free.

Clara Rodríguez Arasanz