Under the high beams of a patrol car a box truck is stopped somewhere along the border. There, a despairing border patrol agent with a life threatening illness conducts a traffic stop during which everything goes wrong. Inspired by the norteño music that chronicles the drug trade, Narcocorrido is a gritty border thriller where all the characters fall victim in their quest for survival.

This week’s short is big on guns, bullets, and blood. The film is certainly not a glorification of the drug trade but the story does take full advantage of its tropes, tensions and stakes, and mines cinematic moments full of tension and drama. The narrative is supported by great performances, riveting camera direction, and burning wick pacing.

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The driver of the cartel transport vehicle is none other than Raúl Castillo from HBO’s Looking, who brings the pathos to an otherwise action dominated frame. He was awarded an Honorable Mention for a Performance at AFI Fest 2012. Castillo dons full norteño gear as the lead singer of a band whose show bookends the film and whose music speaks to its disastrous consequences.

The film was directed by a Tejano and AFI graduate Ryan Prows, who received the Student Academy Award in 2012 for his efforts. The short has since been developed into feature script hoping to project on the big screen.