"Reportero" begins with a montage of slain bodies in the streets of Mexico, victims and participants of the drug war between cartels vying to control the lucrative United States market. Included in their numbers since 2006 are more than 40 reporters and journalists who have been murdered or vanished while doing their job.
"Saying nothing makes you an accomplice," says Sergio Haro, a weathered veteran of the Tijuana based newspaper Zeta, and the focus of the film. At Zeta, we are introduced to the reporters who feel it is their moral imperative to unmask and draw attention to not only the assassins and players in the drug war, but the corruption of the Mexican government that allows it to grow daily.
For many, including this film, the story would begin with the bodies of the dead. For Haro, the story of narco trafficking begins at a trash heap, where dozens of people are shown sifting through trash looking for food to eat. The most sickening part of this footage is the efficiency and quickness the pile is searched by the desperate. Haro notes that for many living hungry, the attractive alternative is to become a killer.
The film shows the constant danger reporters like Haro must face to provide this dogged and in-depth coverage of the drug war. Two Zeta founders are assassinated for their work. Founder and editor Jesus Blancornelas is shot several times, and after his recovery he begins to question the danger he is placing on his staff.
Near the end of the film, we are with Haro as he uncovers government officials plotting with a cartel as they plan together to eliminate a rival cartel. Haro is unsure of his safety at this point, and must take care to get news of the corruption to print. The audience holds its breath as the suspense rises. We feel the joy when the story breaks and the despair when the government officials get away unpunished. "Reportero" shows us another side of intensifying drug war in Mexico, one that gives us empathy to the people who must live through it and the human cost of those who make finding justice their mission.
("Reportero" will be shown in January on AETN as part of the PBS series "P.O.V.")