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…a confronting and haunting journey into the violence that grips much of Central America…
German Cabrera is a stringer for T13 News, a local TV news station in Guatemala City. He cruises the streets of his city at night, camera and police scanner in tow. Compulsively filming, he is a fixture at every violent crime scene, compiling shooting horrors to edit into his nightly news packages.
He is a watcher, Thomas Wolfe’s God’s Lonely Man, violence is his landscape and he’s always filming. Always peering into the dark spaces and alleyways with his camera light illuminating everything from bodies in the aftermath of gang killings and shootouts, to street fights, curb side arguments and even minor squabbles between couples. German, like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, is an all-seeing eye, his camera an extension of him.
German feels that if he can capture the violence on the streets and put it on display via the news, that it will raise the public’s awareness and in some way, spur them on to collectively find a way out of it.
The protagonist’s narration is ever present, musing on the violence that grips the city and his heartfelt reasons for leaving the security of his home and young family, in order to scour the neighbourhoods in a quest to film death, darkness and misdeeds to shake the citizens out of their complacency. His camera seems to intimidate anyone he points it at, so he uses it like a shield, at times almost like a weapon. He races with ambulances to reach crime scenes first, sometimes he’s there late, in time to witness the police-tape strewn aftermath: crowds of rubberneckers jostling for a glance at a body, blood splattered perpetrators in the backs of police vehicles, the awful screams of grieving family members and broken bodies lying where they died minutes before.
Seeing German ‘clock on’ for this nightly descent into hell brought to mind Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead, where Nicolas Cage’s EMT Frank Pierce walks on a razor’s edge of sanity as he endures night after night of this kind of catalogue of horrors.
German has access like that of a journalist but he’s not strictly a reporter, neither is he a police officer, yet he works with them as well, sharing information and letting them know that he’s happy to depict the good work they do, not showing “any of the bad stuff”.
One day, German receives word that his father has been arrested in Nicaragua on suspicion of molesting a young girl. German believes his father to be innocent and vigilante-style, travels there to conduct his own investigation, with his camera in tow. It’s this portion of the film that allows us to see German out of his element, struggling to do what he believes is right but being hampered at every step.
Made across a seven-year period by co-directors Alex Roberts and Daniel Leclair and beautifully photographed by Daniel Leclair and Darren Hauck, The Meddler is a confronting and haunting journey into the violence that grips much of Central America, letting us see it through the eyes of a person who feels a strong and vital sense of moral duty for his fellow citizens and for his family, longing for the way things were, before the violence descended on the city.