Mark McLoughlin’s documentary, Blood Rising, examines the phenomenon of femicide – the killing of women ostensibly due to their gender – in the Mexican city Juarez; a place where femicide has become a way of life. Through the lens of an artist, Brian Maguire, who has spent time in Juarez getting to know the families left behind, the film looks at the fallout and follow up to femicide and whether the families can ever find peace.
In recent years, the crime of femicide has come to international recognition and now, since the rape and murder of a woman in India, the film feels as though it is incredibly relevant. Brian Maguire is an artist who, after meeting the families whose lives have been touched by these violent crimes, creates paintings of the murdered women. The questions that arise are whether art can help people to integrate their grief, and how much of an effect these paintings have on Maguire as an outsider.
McLoughlin has woven together the stories of the women and the lives they have left behind with the tale of the man who is trying to help them integrate their pain. What emerges is a story of corruption and violence; many of the women’s deaths are never investigated, and those that are have to contend with corruption within the police force. This is a harrowing story, but the issues with the film arise from its one sidedness.
Since this is a film that only talks to the people left behind, the picture painted by the film is incomplete. We never learn why the women are killed – not really – just that they are. The film throws a spotlight on the fact that these women are dying, and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the drug cartels that control the area, but we are never told why. The women are all from different families and backgrounds so there is little to connect them, other than their gender.
That said, this is an issue that is ongoing; the crimes are on the increase and very little is being done to protect the women of Juarez, so maybe hearing about women such as Erika and Brenda who were found dead, and the people and lives they have left behind is reason enough to make the film; to bring the violence to public consciousness.
Blood Rising is an emotional film about a difficult and worthwhile subject, and framing it through the eyes of a man who is trying his best to help the families come to terms with the death of a loved one is an interesting angle to take. However, without the input of the government, police and those few convicted of killing women, the story feels one sided and ultimately ends up a film about grief, and not the crimes that caused this pain.