The documentary film Narco Cultura follows the wildly different ways that the drug war has affected people on opposite sides of the Mexican-American border. In El Juarez, Mexico, a city ravaged by black-market violence, desensitized kids watch police scoop up the remains of their murdered siblings. In California and Texas, American entertainers take on the personas of powerful Mexican drug dealers to earn lucrative record deals and movie gigs.

To tell these stories, director Shaul Schwarz interviews Mexican cops ("the bullet collectors"), American border patrol officers (naively incompetent), entertainers, and families affected by violence; he also includes some very graphic footage. The film makes a clear statement about the immorality of the drug war, but beyond the message it's also a classic story-part Horatio Alger, part Tale of Two Cities-set in modern times. -Jess Remington