CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico—Benicio del Toro's violent new crime thriller Sicario opened to packed theaters and critical acclaim this weekend, but not everyone is applauding the movie's early success.
The IRL mayor of Ciudad Juarez, where the movie's plot is set, is joining a group of perturbed citizens in calling for a boycott of the film, arguing that Hollywood is shamelessly trying to profit from the darkest days of the border town's narco-violence, which claimed some 10,000 lives and disappeared thousands more between 2008-2013.
“This film tries to portray a situation of violence as if it were the current reality of the city, which is not the case. That's a fallacy," Ciudad Juarez Mayor Enrique Serrano told Fusion. "This happened in Juarez a few years ago, and now they are trying to sell tickets out of Juarez tragedy.”
The mayor says he's so outraged by the film he's considering filing a lawsuit against the producers for “moral damages.”
“We are going to stick with this until its final consequences,” he said.
The mayor's complaint has found some echo among residents of Ciudad Juarez, even though the film hasn't been released in Mexico yet.
A group of people started the Facebook group called ‘<3 JRZ’ with some 36,000 followers calling on citizens to boycott the movie, saying “If you love Juarez, you will not watch this film.”
Some Juarenses who have already seen the film, which opened in U.S. theaters on Oct. 2 and co-stars Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin, say they were upset to see their city's tragedy turned into big-screen entertainment for others.
Ramón García, a resident of Ciudad Juarez, said he left the cinema in tears.
“I am one of those people affected by the violence that happened in our city, and I have forgiven. But watching the movie made those feelings came back to me,” he said.
“I went to watch the movie in El Paso, and I think it's very disagreeable that Hollywood is taking advantage of a situation where our friends and relatives got killed. I just hope Juarenses don’t support this type of movie,” said Ciudad Juarez native Rafael López,33, who now lives in Texas.
Others think the film presents Ciudad Juarez with an important opportunity to face its past. “I think that instead of discouraging people from watching the film, we should take this as an opportunity to open a dialogue looking back to what happened in this city,” says Axel Pedraza, a filmmaker born and raised in the Mexican border city.
Oscar Moreno, a young scriptwriter from Ciudad Juarez, says he thinks the movie isn’t bad, but relies heavily on stereotypes.
"It does have a great character complexity, but visually the movie does not capture the complexity of the dark side in Ciudad Juarez," he said.
Others agree the film fell short. Moviegoer Margarita Reyes said even the violence of Sicario doesn't compare to the reality of what Juarez went through. “I watched the film, but it's nothing compared to the terror, death and hopelessness that we lived and some of us still live,” she said.
“At the end, our reality is much worse,” a fellow border resident added.
Luis Chaparro, 28, is a Mexican freelance journalist born in Ciudad Juarez and based in Mexico City. His articles have appeared in Proceso, EFE, VICE News, El Diario, El Daily Post, and others. Chaparro specializes in reports on drug trafficking organizations, immigration and US-Mexico issues.