Review of Dark Suns
Memory is a hard thing to shake loose. Throughout our lives we dig deep into our minds and try to remember not just the past but the things that we have lost. Yet memory seems to be in an ever-losing race against time. The official count of people that have disappeared in Mexico is 30,000 people, however, there is no sure way of knowing how many men, women and children have been lost.
Julian Elie’s stunningly heartbreaking documentary, Dark Suns (Soles negros), opens to a quote by Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez, a journalist who covered femicides in Ciudad Juárez, referring to the extermination of memory, that is caused by the collusion between institutional systems and organized crime.
Time is the worst enemy if you have a missing relative. Because life is gone fast.”
Mario Vergara, from Guerrero state on the Pacific coast of Mexico, has spent a little over five years looking for his brother. His story is just part of one of the chapters in the documentary.
Split into six different chapters the film takes us into the lives of those who have been affected by either the drug war or corrupt politicians and military men. The ones left behind, mothers, brothers, activists, human rights advocates have sacrificed everything in search for the truth. Audiences are witnesses to the immense loss and pain that the families of the disappeared are going through; however, they teach us what it means to keep memory alive though all hope is lost.
Elie’s camera lingers on open spaces, on shops, run-down buildings, and busy streets like it is searching for something; maybe searching for those who have disappeared or singling out the spaces they once might have stood. His use of black and white cinematography helps retain a sense of contained memory, giving the film a timeless feeling. In all the cities where the documentary takes place, where chapters one and two take place, you can feel the remnants left behind by the victims of femicides—the camera focuses on posters, flyers, pictures on water bottles and fans given out by the mothers, their presence and spirits haunt these cities.