Hot Docs 2023 Review: A Wolfpack Called Ernesto

by Andrew Parker

Unusually filmed, but unquestionably intense and captivating, Mexican filmmaker Everardo González’s A Wolfpack Called Ernesto might make viewers question the authenticity of its images, but certainly opens eyes with its approach.

Ernesto is a symbolic pseudonym given by González to a group of interview subjects who would like to retain some degree of anonymity. In one way or another, every member of “Ernesto” is involved in some aspect of the illegal weapons trade, be they young men and women who buy, sell, and sometimes rent out guns to build respect, gang members who find them a necessary evil, smugglers, or cops who turn a blind eye so they too can make a quick buck off the killing of others. González weaves these audio interviews over sequences where a camera films people going about their daily business from behind; their faces never clearly seen and those of everyone around them somewhat blurry in appearance. At a certain point for each of these subjects, killing or profiting from death is a small price to pay for protection, respect, and a chance at a more comfortable life.

A Wolfpack Called Ernesto might not be all that authentic on a visual level, because it would require González to be a direct party to illegal activity, but the stories bear a lot of truth. Stylistically, A Wolfpack Called Ernesto feels like some sort of nightmarish video game, where the viewer is silently witnessing another person walking through a world uncannily like our own. While this leaves a lot of potential blind spots in terms of creating a comprehensive portrait of gun violence in Mexico, González has a firm grasp over the cinematic language they want to employ, and A Wolfpack Called Ernesto speaks to a wide enough range of anecdotal experiences that it manages to chill and enthral more than many straightforward documentary on the subject.

Thursday, May 4, 2023 – 2:15 pm – TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

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