Kingdom of Shadows

Synopsis: Bernardo Ruiz takes an unflinching look at the human cost of the U.S.-Mexico drug war through the perspectives of three unlikely individuals.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Bernardo Ruiz
Production: Participant Media
  1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
75 min


[tense music]

- All right.


- It's recording.

- Speeding.

[indistinct chatter]

-[speaking Spanish]

- We're getting tough on drugs,

and we mean business.

For those who are thinking

of using drugs, we say stop.

And to those who are pushing

drugs, we say beware.

- Searches at the border

crossing points

were the main method used

in keeping drugs

and other unwanted materials

out of the United States.

- For all of the big amount

of drug busts,

there's barely a dent

in the multi billion dollar flow

of cocaine and heroin

into the United States.

- If you're offered drugs,

you'll know what to do.

You'll have the courage to

stand up for what you believe

and say "no."

[sombre music]

- I grew up along the border.

I knew how to talk the game.

I knew, you know,

how the game was played.

The town where I grew up,

it was a natural staging

ground for the Juarez Cartel,

for the drugs that crossed.

At that time,

a vast majority of the cocaine

that was coming into the country

was going

through that neighborhood.


I remember going to a party

during high school.

It must have been

my sophomore, junior year.

We went to these brothers' house

that we used to hang out with.

One of the brothers says,

"Hey, you guys want to

see something cool?"

I'm like, "Yeah."

We go into the garage, and he

opens up one of the coolers,

and it was full

of bricks of cocaine.

I mean up to the top.

There's always a lot

of temptation where there is

a lot of poverty

and a lot of struggle.

A lot of us

fell into that temptation.

It was only natural.

-[speaking Spanish]

Ciento cuatro punto uno

- Norteo y mas

[upbeat Latin music]

- You can't even describe Texas

without including Mexico.

That's what a lot of people

fail to realize.

It's everything, from the way

we speak, the food we eat.

It's just part

of the culture here,

part of the fabric

of this country.

I personally

was not a big-time dealer.

Most of the time,

the loads I smuggled

were in the 200-pound range.

I did buy

from some small-time growers

up in the mountains of Mexico.

And I also bought from very

big, powerful organizations

that primarily operated

on the border.

I was caught up in it.

I was a willful participant,

and I jumped into it headfirst.

- In 2008 and 2009,

we started hearing

from local organizations

in Mexico

that people were being taken,

sometimes by police or soldiers,

sometimes just by armed groups.

The patterns that

we eventually realized

made up the worst crisis

in disappearance

that we had seen in the region

in decades.

The only other precedence we had

for disappearances

on a mass scale

were under the dictatorships

of Pinochet

and also in the dictatorship

in Argentina.

One of the places that we

were getting the most reports

was Monterrey, and

those reports were coming to us

in large part from a small

organization run by a nun.

The nun was Consuelo.

And they were the ones

that were with the families

when they were going

to report the cases

at a time when reporting cases

could get you disappeared.

[phone ringing]

- My life has been impacted

by the narco

ever since I can remember.

For me,

it was just a way of life.

It wasn't anything

out of the ordinary.

People in Socorro

had just immigrated

into the United States.

We really didn't have

any established roots.

The Juarez Cartel used that as

an advantage where they could

reach out to a family member

in Mexico and say,

"Hey, you know, we want to use

your cousin's house

as a staging ground."

Your friends that decided

to get into illegal activity

to try to make ends meet,

you would see them

from one year to the next,

actually from one month

to the next,

have all sons of money

and all sorts of cars

and vehicles.

At the time that

I was growing up as a teenager,

we didn't believe that there was

a lot of opportunity outside,

you know, in the outside world.

Socorro was it, and if somebody

was offering you money,

you know, why not?

He's doing it.

Why shouldn't I do it?

[gentle music]

What are the totals so far?

- There's over 1,000 pounds

of marijuana seized.

They'll probably indict, like,

about ten people later.

- I'm the Assistant

Special Agent in Charge

for Homeland Security

here in El Paso.

I run the Narcotics divisions,

and I also run the Intelligence.

Can you come to my office

for a second?

I was involved in

some high-profile cases that,

had it not been for us

being able to infiltrate

a certain organization,

we would never be able to

really dismantle entire cells.

Yeah, we could do

two or three arrests

and take a couple

of middle individuals off,

but if you truly wanted to know

how the cartels operate

and-and who was running,

who was, you know-

how the... the cartels

were being shapen up,

both in Mexico and here,

you really needed

an undercover in there.

What was appealing was the fact

that not everybody can do it.

Not everybody is effective.

In undercover work,

it's just you and your mind.

You really have

to rely on your smarts.

You have to rely

on thinking on your feet.

When you're dealing with

these individuals, you know,

you would know that, hey,

this guy is Juarez Cartel

or this guy is Sinaloa Cartel,

and this guy is responsible

for murders in Mexico.

You're walking a thin line

'cause you're trying

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Bernardo Ruiz

Bernardo Ruiz Navarrete (born 8 January 1925 in Orihuela) is a Spanish former professional road bicycle racer who won the overall and climbers competition at the 1948 Vuelta a España. Ruiz had to race with heavy equipment because Spain was going through a depression. During World War II Spain got ahead in athletics because they were not heavily involved in the war. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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