Julio Mendez, Actor in Award-Winning Film ‘Pelo Malo’ Killed by Caracas Police

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Of late, Latin American filmmakers have shown a marked preference for working with non-professional, or “natural” actors, giving a distinct flavor to the region’s cinema. But once in a while the crude reality of everyday life in Latin America adds a tragic note to the story of these films. Just last year, Hugo Monterroso of the Guatemalan feature Marimbas del Infierno was found dead under mysterious, and rather gruesome circumstances, and now it seems another chapter has been added to this tragic dialogue between fiction and reality.

Venezuelan actor and athlete Julio Méndez, who played Mario in Mariana Rondón’s recent critical hit Pelo Malo, was shot dead this past weekend in Caracas by a specialized police known as the CICPC (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas Penales y Criminalísticas.) According to Venezuelan daily, El Nacional, Méndez was surrounded in a parking lot along with fourteen other individuals where, according to an official police statement, they were planning a robbery. The police allege that gunfire was initiated by the group upon confrontation, but details are still hazy.

Whether or not Méndez was directly involved in this criminal activity, his death is a sad testament to the ongoing violence and insecurity that has racked Venezuela in recent decades. Director Mariana Rondón confirmed his death on the movie’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and expressed the depth of her grief with a brief but powerful message:

The film’s casting director also took to social media, posting a tribute on his Facebook account.