The horror stories of the innocent people caught up in the South American gang wars is a never-ending saga all in itself. Documentarian Tatiana Huezo's second film, Tempestad, recalls the experiences of two Mexican women who were caught in the midst of a human trafficking ring. They both tell their own story set to Huezo's visuals, and although the women have never met, an innate connection is found through the harrowing nature of their respective ordeals.
We hear from Miriam, a young mother who, while working at a Cancun airport, was falsely accused and imprisoned for human trafficking. When she attempts to plead her innocence the officer in charge of the case tells her they know she and the other women rounded up are not guilty, but pressure from the Government to be seen doing something about the problem meant that someone, anyone, had to be imprisoned. Miriam wasn't sent to a regular prison for her sentence, but one controlled by the notorious Gulf Cartel. On top of surviving the brutal physical and psychological conditions of the jail, her family were forced to pay thousands of dollars to keep Miriam from being killed while inside.
Miriam never appears in the film, for obvious reasons, and Huezo's use of visuals to accompany her voice makes it difficult to connect with her plight. With each layer of her story becoming bleaker than the last the director can't bridge the distance between the subject and the person recalling this haunting period of her life. Her story is told backwards and we hear that when Miriam was finally released she had to travel a lengthy 1,250 miles back across the country to her home. Huezo vaguely symbolises this by showing a group of unknown women travelling by coach, the point being that it could've been any one of these people who suffered the same ordeal. A similar method is used when Adela is gradually introduced in the second half of the film, although this time she is shown on camera.
While Huezo had to find some way to fill the space left by Miriam's absence it was the directors decision to use her testimony as the centre piece for the entire film, and it's a choice she cannot compensate for. Her narration takes up most of the screen time and even Adela's presence fails to add substance to what we are shown and the horrors she speaks about. You can't fail to be appalled by some of the details both women reveal and the fact they are alive to tell their tale is testament to the unbelievable resources of mental strength they possess. It's unfortunate the director's approach fails to do them justice because the power of their journey back to the land of the living deserves something more resonant.