Thoughts On: La Vida Loca - Change/Futility


La Vida Loca - Change/Futility

Quick Thoughts: The Crazy Life (La Vida Loca, 2008)

Made by Christian Poveda, this is the El Salvadorian film of the series.

La Vida Loca is a brilliantly structured documentary, one that feels scripted at points. However, with the reoccurring plot of death and imprisonment, there is no real sense of artifice in this film, just an ominous, devastating reality. Following members of the gang, La 18, this then primarily portrays non-criminal activity and a communal battle for change in El Salvador. In such, the conflict between religion, morality, gang solidarity, family and the law is documented with varying distance. This distance is the most challenging aspect of this film. At points, it seems that the camera sympathises with gang members and even indulges in their activity (a strip tease scene is arguably very questionable in this respect). As a result of this sympathy, we are left to question the socio-cultural environment in which the gang members exist; we are made to contemplate the role of the police, poverty and, to a degree, international politics (after all, both La 18, or The 18th Street Gang, and their rival, Mara Salvatrucha, are international gangs that were founded in LA and later spread into Central America).

As this plays out, we are, however, left wondering of the precise illegal activity that the many subjects of this film are apparently involved in. So, the sympathetic camera eventually becomes questionable as, whilst it gives a human facade to the gang, it doesn't demonstrate its true nature - rather allows the gang members to present themselves, and often as in states of change due to family, rehabilitation, work or religion. However, due to the structure of the narrative, a dark truth can't help but surface. Whilst we are made to see the faults of the government and the effects of the environment on the gang members' actions, with the constant repetitious death and imprisonment, sympathy naturally wears thin. With the final few shots of this narrative, the futility of attempted change from within the gang is implied - the idea that the eradication of violence is echoed - and thus there is a strong undercurrent of critique of the gang that surfaces; their doctrines, activities and constant expansion are never shown to be of any good.

La Vida Loca is then a very confounding film. There are problems packed in problems embedded deeply into the subject of gangs and it seems that they form a superstructure that does not want to fall; the police and government alongside the communities and the gang members stunt and destroy opportunities of change. And to round off all of which this film captures, its director, Christian Poveda, was murdered by, allegedly, both police and gang members who did not like La Vida Loca's content.

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UPDATE: For a look at an El Salvadorian short, click here.

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