On the morning of Aug. 3, 2019, a man armed with an automatic rifle entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, shooting 46 people in the span of six minutes. Twenty-three people died as a result of their injuries. Many victims of the El Paso shooting identified as Latino, and in a manifesto, the shooter, Patrick Crusius, had explicitly stated his animus against people of Mexican origin. In the documentary “915: Hunting Hispanics” (the number is the El Paso area code), survivors share their memories of that catastrophic morning.
The interviews contained in this film are not glossy. Subjects aren’t always wearing makeup, they ramble, they weep. The camera occasionally seems out of focus and the editing cuts from angle to angle with little sense of internal rhythm. At the beginning of the film, this unvarnished approach is disorienting. But the longer the director Charlie Minn pursues his lines of questioning, the more his film coheres as a military history of a domestic terrorist attack.
Minn retraces the path of the shooter and the response of those left in his wake as if charting moves on a battlefield. Maps show the path of the attack and the order of the victims. Interviews with survivors add on-the-ground detail to the brutal events, and cellphone footage shows the desperate escape attempts, grievous injuries and efforts to preserve or revive life among the fallen. The events of mass shootings are often presented as devastating clashes of old-fashioned good and evil — complete with heroic martyrs and devilish madmen. The value of this demystifying film is its tactical breakdown of a form of violence that has become increasingly common in the United States. Here, both prevention and survival are a result of communal strategy.
915: Hunting Hispanics
Not rated. Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes. In theaters.