Home / Movies  / Kingdom of Shadows, documentary exposes truths on U.S.-Mexico Drug War

Kingdom of Shadows, documentary exposes truths on U.S.-Mexico Drug War

Kingdom of Shadows is a documentary about the drug war between Mexico and the United States.

Hollywood seems to have developed a love affair with the war on drugs and Narco culture and the television industry seems equally fascinated, with audiences not falling far behind.

According to a Forbes article, Drug war action thriller “Sicario”, which hit theaters in early October and  stars Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin raked in $12.075 million on its opening weekend alone. It has since then gone on to earn $79.165 million worldwide.

Press Pass’D: Meet D’Vocion Norteña: a Mexican Regional music ‘Banda’ with a twist 

The Netflix drama series “Narcos” which centers around “the infamous Medellín drug cartel”, maps out Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s ascent to the top of the drug world, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s tireless chase of him and his ultimate fall from power.
Mexican American director Bernardo Ruiz promotes his docu-film "Kingdowm of Shadows"

Award winning director Bernardo Ruiz founded production company Quiet Pictures in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Participant Media)

The series, now on its second season, has been rated a 9 out of 10 on IMDB and has quickly developed a strong fan following.

However, the story is mainly told from Escobar’s point of view. Mexican American documentary director Bernardo Ruiz is ready to tell the stories of people on the other side of the drug war: activists, victims and their families, undercover Drug Enforcement Agency officers and even former traffickers.

“We’re in a moment where we have so many media projects on the so called drug war and the Narco war and I think that unfortunately a lot of them exploit the reality, which is that there’s so much pain and suffering which has been generated by this conflict,” said Bernardo Ruiz, Director of  docu-film “Kingdom of Shadows” (Lo Que Reina en las Sombras) in an interview with Press Pass Latino.

Ruiz’s documentary “Kingdom of Shadows” aims to provide an insider’s look at the human toll of the U.S.-Mexico drug war through the perspective of people whose daily lives are closely linked with it.

“I think what this film [Kingdom of Shadows] does as a documentary…this is not a shoot them up documentary, this is not an action film, we’re interested in providing context and history and the way we do that in this film is through the stories of three real people whose lives have been impacted by the shadow business of the drug trade.”

Press Pass’D: Gabi Funegra strives to revive the Quecha language with her documentary: ‘The language is declining’

Ruiz founded production company Quiet Pictures in 2007 and has previously worked on award winning documentaries such as “American Experience: Roberto Clemente” in 2008 and award nominated “Reportero” in 2012.

In “Kingdom of Shadows”, Ruiz shed light into the lives, stories and struggles of three people, who are in very distinct ways, connected to the U.S.-Mexico drug war.

“In the film we have a nun, who is a human rights activist, Sister Consuelo, who works with families of the disappeared as they look for justice,” said Ruiz.

Kingdom of Shadows, a documentary by director Bernardo Ruiz, profiles different individuals involved in the drug war.

Sister Consuelo Morales works as an activist, helping families of the ‘desaparecidos’ search for their loved ones. (Photo courtesy of Participant Media)

“You have a former trafficker and rancher, Don Henry Ford Jr., who served time in a federal prison for trafficking, and you have a federal agent, Oscar Hagelsieb, who worked as an undercover agent infiltrating organized crime groups.”

Ruiz says each of the people profiled in “Kingdom of Shadows” have stories which could easily belong to fiction but explains that despite this, their narratives are rooted in truth and daily life experiences, something the director says is lacking in Hollywood films.

Kingdom of Shadows is a documentary detailing the gruesome realities of the drug war.

‘Kingdom of Shadows’ profiles three individuals whose daily lives are affected by the U.S.-Mexico drug war. (Movie Poster Art by Edel Rodriguez)

“Their testimonies are the anchor of the film,” he said. “They’re what drive the story forward and give us a glimpse of what this bigger, complex problem is like.”

“Kingdom of Shadows” premiered at the SXSW Film Festival this year, and was screened throughout the United States and Mexico this fall leading up to its video-on-demand release on Wednesday, November 17. Its theatrical release took place on Friday, November 20 in Los Angeles, New York, and a few other select cities.

‘Kingdom of Shadows’ was produced by Boiling Pot and Quiet Pictures and is being distributed in North America by Participant Media.

Press Pass’D:  Is Latino still a Latino by any other name? 


Daysi Calavia-Robertson has a BA in Mass Communications from Florida International University. Her articles have appeared in The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, The Sun-Sentinel, The South Florida Times and The Huffington Post. She's also conducted entertainment reporting segments on local television. No matter what the medium, Daysi believes in the power of storytelling.

Review overview