Director: Christian Poveda.
"Livin' la vida loca" is the title of a song by Ricky Martin, a latin american pop singer. It seems to be a song about living a wild life, a life full of dancing, passion, joy and excitement. That type of cliché about the Latin-american "Vida Loca", however, is far away from the type of latin american crazy lifestyle that Christian Poveda portrays in this documentary.
The type of lifestyle in Poveda's film is a brutal reality consuming the younger days of hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults in Central America and California. This phenomenon, known as Maras, is grouping young people in extremely violent street gangs dedicated to robbery, drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.
According to sociologists and local authorities, the problem started in the times of the salvadorean Civil War, a violent period in Salvadorean history when millions were forced to migrate to the United States. In the ghettos of Los Angeles, Salvadorean youngsters were constantly harrassed by the local gangs, namely "The Cribs" and "The Bloods" and as an answer to that harrasment, they decided to form their own gangs, "La Mara Salvatrucha" and "La Mara 18".
Poveda's documentary is a journey to that world. The world of thousands of young men and women who grew up with no family (Their parents are usually living in the USA as illegal inmigrants) and find in a street gang all the acceptance that their society denies. He goes in their neighborhood, visits their houses, meets their family and portrays their rituals. In one of the most controversial sequences of the documentary, Poveda takes a handheld camera to one of their tattooing rituals (that usually involve inhaling and smoking heavy doses of low-quality narcotics) and shows how this seemingly brutal custom is almost a demonstration of tenderness between men who live in crime and violence. It is that tenderness, perhaps, what they are missing. Perhaps they have been pushed to seek those expressions of understanding and tenderness in the wrong way.
Seeing La Vida Loca is getting a glimpse of the life of "El Crazy", "La Chucky" and many other "mareros" from La Mara 18, is taking a sneak peek to their human side, getting to know them and then watching how they start to disappear shot by shot. In the very moment you get used to their ways, when they become sympathetic characters, they are suddenly gone.
This sixteen months journey, this portrait of the human side of the forgotten youth in central america costed Mr. Poveda his own life. He was shot several times in the salvadorean locality of Tonacatepeque on september 2nd 2009, while working on this, his opera postuma.