La libertad del diablo – Devil’s Freedom, reviewed by Sarah Salem

At the 39th Moscow International Film Festival, I had the privilege of seeing La libertad del diablo, or Devil’s Freedom in English, which is a disturbing yet effective documentary directed by Everado Gonzalez about the war on drugs, and the kidnapping and violence that accompanies it, in Mexico.

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This film especially stands out because the narrative is strictly controlled by those interrogated. Gonzalez interviews victims of the violence in Mexico, as well as those responsible for the violence, with little to no background information. Gonzalez also has his interviewees wear masks with only their eyes and mouths poking through.

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Not only does this bring anonymity to those he interviews, but it unites them, whether they were victims or perpetrators, in the pain the terror and violence brought each of them in different ways. Each person brings an emotional, chilling testimony to the table. A little girl talks about the very moment her mother was taken away from her, and a boy either in his late teens or early twenties talks about his first murder at 14 years old.

The editing and sound are incredibly minimal, leaving an even stronger emotional impact as your focus stays strictly on the interviewees. The camera pans on victims as tears stain their masks, the sound of wind-chimes being the only thing perpetrating the silence.

The most devastating part of the film is that after several testimonies, there is no resolution. The film ends with a single woman taking her mask off, and right when you think everyone else will also reveal themselves, the screen goes black. Here lies such an extreme absence of hope that you can’t help being left speechless. Gonzalez does a magnificent job of not glorifying the war and violence in Mexico, but stripping everything down and simply letting the victims on both sides tell their stories. After hearing so many different perspectives, audiences can detect the dehumanizing (as depicted by the masks stripping their features away) cycle of brutality and crime that leads to anything but a happy ending.

Overall, the grim tone that lasts all 74 minutes is incredibly compelling, and will hopefully lead audiences to start a conversation on the dark, violent underside of Mexico that many don’t like to talk about.