'Al Otro Lado'

A competent, earnest ethnographic video doc that never quite rises above its own best intentions, Natalia Almada's Al Otro Lado ( To the Other Side) grabs hold of an ironic New Globalism dynamic: Mexican narcocorrido musicians crooning about the rebellious heroism of drug smugglers. In Sinaloa, where fishing can no longer pay a living wage and the only alternative to heading north and washing dishes is to grow and sell coca, everyone Almada finds is utterly blasé about the ubiquity of dope and those who get rich from it. A corrido newbie named Magdiel debates his very limited options, and Almada recounts the recent history of the polka-powered song style as it mutated from a folk ballad form valorizing Mexican Revolution war heroes and, later, civil rights leaders, to celebrating the anti-establishment role of los narcotraficantes. A thumbnail window on the world, the movie puts a taste of this culture on the tongue but leaves it at that.

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