Cleveland International Film Festival } March 22 – April 1, 2023 } Playhouse Square


Year: 2001
Country: Mexico
Run Time: 75 minutes

No film in the 26th CIFF has a premise as frightening as this nonfiction feature. Olga, Guadalupe, Sagraria, Elizabeth, Er?ndira and Anabel are just a few of the many dead or missing in a city under a pall of evil. Welcome to Ju?rez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, a community near the US border with a grim claim to fame. There is perhaps no better place than here to murder a young woman ? and get away with it. Since the early 1990s scores of females, tending to be slim, attractive and dark-haired, have gone missing or turned up slain, the corpses displaying similar mutilations. This is a factory town in many ways; the presence of the maquiladoras ? giant round-the-clock manufacturing plants owned by RCA, Philips-Magnavox and others ? means a transient and heavily-female labor force, many on the night shift, and the accused in the unsolved killings range from employee ID-photographers to the bus drivers who shuttle the workers back and forth. Authorities arrest Sharif Sharif, an Egyptian-born engineer with a shady past, scapegoated as a serial-killer villain by the press. But while he's behind bars the disappearances continue, relentlessly, remorselessly. The tally climbs to over 200. The relatives are frantic. And suspects range from Sharif's mysterious co-conspirators to cults to drug traffickers ? to the infamously corrupt police themselves, who have destroyed rooms full of evidence. "I find myself mistrusting everything I'm told, everything I read," narrates filmmaker Lourdes Portillo, as she pursues ghosts through the desert and mourns the victims. (Partially in Spanish with English subtitles)

Lourdes Portillo

Lourdes Portillo

Kyle Kibbe

Vivien Hillgrove

Film Contact
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