The before and the after of violence

by March 24, 2011

A scene from Natalia Almada's "El Velador"

Guest post by Abby Plener

The question of how to represent violence in art is a compelling one. For directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, the power of cinema lies in its ability to portray violence unapologetically, to capture in the flesh what other forms of art can only imagine. However, others challenge both the authenticity of such graphic displays, as well as their capacity to connect with an audience.

Natalia Almada is one of those artists. Her documentary “El Velador” revolves around a single cemetery in Mexico which has doubled in size since that country’s war on drugs began in 2007. Premiering this weekend at the New Directors/New Films festival in New York City, the film’s story is largely told in silence. Dialogue is kept to a minimum as the audience is introduced to the victim’s families through the perspective of the cemetery guards, and through memorial photos and news broadcasts which convey the high death tolls imposed by the conflict. In an interview with indieWIRE, Almada explains her intent:

I wanted to make a film that stood in opposition to the sensational depiction of violence that we see in most media. I wanted to make a beautiful, contemplative film that would allow us to look at violence differently by putting us in the middle of it – at the moments when violence has happened and when violence is immanent[sic].

The rest of the article can be read here; a trailer here.

Abby Plener writes on film, media, politics, and equity issues. She can be reached at