Movie Review: On the Edge: The Femicide in Ciudad Juarez

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
Just over the border from El Paso Texas, in Ciudad Juarez, the citizens are being betrayed. Poor women are taking the brunt of the failings of society. Since 1993 over 450 young women - mostly between the ages 15 to 25 are being murdered. There are no earnest attempts to investigate the murders.

Authorities immediately denounce the victims, calling them drug addicts and prostitutes. Their family members are sometimes charged for the crimes with no evidence, and then the case is closed. Sometimes who ever is caught near the crime scene is imprisoned and tortured so he will confess to the crime. The perpetrators are murdering with impunity, the ultimate expression of misogyny in a culture.

Even though the community has put pressure on police, the killings are still occurring and going unpunished. Steev Hise, neophyte producer/director of the 58-minute doc, ON THE EDGE, interviews mothers, women's rights activists, writers and community organizers, who paint a complex mosaic of cultural and economic influences that have created the environment in which the brutality is possible. One mother says, " To be a woman and to be poor in Ciudad Juarez is to be a perfect target to be murdered, and nothing will happen."

Interviewees cite the drug trafficking as a major contributor to the social problems. The trafficking brings in large sums of money to this city with grinding poverty, which corrupts the police force. Free trade made possible by NAFTA is decried as devastating the economy in Ciudad Juarez. The education is poor and there are few opportunities for good jobs.

Hise doesn't name the American corporations, or describe their culpability in detail. But the camera pans by Tyco, and we learn that Lear has a plant there. American companies enjoy all the benefits of a cheap docile labor force in these young women but don't protect their workers, 70% of whom are women. Young women are often killed on their way home from work. In most cases they are kidnapped, tortured, and raped.

Off-kilter camera shots in interviews and the glowing colors in one interview are both distracting. Sometimes there is too much happening on the screen at the same time to take it all in. But this earnest and worthy doc effectively relates an important and unbearable story.

Interviewees discuss how, with the influence of NAFTA and the economic fallout, this brutal trend is spreading throughout other countries like Guatemala. Two Hollywood dramas about the Ciudad Juarez killings are scheduled to open soon, one starring Minnie Driver, and the other, Jennifer Lopez. To learn more about ON THE EDGE: THE FEMICIDE IN CIUDAD JUAREZ, and to purchase the DVD go to

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.
Air date: 11/1/06
More Information:
On the Edge: The Femicide in Ciudad Juarez
Director: Steev Hise; English and Spanish with English Translation