Tsurisaki Kiyotaka, a journalist and photographer famous for his photos of death, spent 3 years down in Bogota, Colombia following around Orozco. An elderly gentleman who has been embalming people for over 40 years, and has apparently embalmbed over 50,000 bodies in his career. Tsurisaki follows Orozco and his daily routine, while also filming the world around Orozco, painting a clear picture of what kind of place he lives in. A world where finding a person brutally murdered on the streets, man or woman, is a common occurance.
I've never had much of a desire to watch mondo style documentaries since, honestly, I didn't think I would enjoy them. I watch horror and exploitation for entertainment, which isn't exactly what you are going to be getting out of a shock-documentary that's designed to show and remind us how cruel and fucked up this world truly is. (Whether you were willing to acknowledge that already or not.) For some strange reason though "Orozco The Embalmer" caught my interest, there was just something about a documentary focusing on an embalmer who lives in a city where death is common place in everyday life that seems fascinating.
That is all that "Orozco" is really about, an embalmer. There isn't any deeper meaning, no political agenda, or social commentary on death and violence. It's an honest look at a man who has made the art of preserving the dead, his life work. The director, Tsurisaki Kiyotaka, doesn't shy away from this unpleasant and often unseen side of death as we follow Orozco and his daily work of cleaning and preparing the deceased for their funeral. Men. Women. Children. Adults...It doesn't matter what demographic someone falls into, once they are dead they are all the same, and we get to watch the final stages of their remains before they are laid to rest. As a reporter and artistic photographer who's signature subject matter is death, Tsurisaki Kiyotaka captures every moment without hesitation. Cutting into the body; removing the organs. Washing the body inside and out, removing all unnecessary bodily fluids that will cause natural decomposing. Down to the mundane task of dressing and applying make up to the corpses, in an attempt to restore them to their once lively glory. Orozco does it all, and Tsurisaki is there following him every step of the way. Which can snap even the most jaded of horror-film buffs back down to reality, as the illusions created by SPFX artists is long gone. No latex, no corn-syrup blood. This is it. It can at times, seem almost unreal to think that these stiff-motionless corpses that are being drained and having their innards removed, were once real people who were alive. Who did all of the things that you and me are doing or just in general do in our every day lives; working, running errands, meeting friends and family, etc. We may have our own presets as to what awaits us when we are dead, but Tsurisaki shows us the cold hard truth of what actually awaits us. Don't kid yourself either, while this may all be taking place in the slums of a third-world country, what goes down in the "office" of Orozco is the same for everyone in just about any place in the world.
While the main focus of the documentary is Orozco himself, Tsurisaki also manages to show us the backdrop of the world that he lives in. Set in a small location of Bogota, Columbia of what is referred to as 'El Cartucho', while never actually showing any of the violence we get a small glimpse of what life is like. Violence and death is so common that we watch as a crowd gathers around the body of a man who was left near a fence behind several homes which also happens to be adjacent to a playground. The crowd is composed of very young children, some who are still being carried by their parents, to the elderly. Even though a dead body will always attract on-lookers, no matter where you are, you can tell this is nothing new for them as the emotionless and blank faces of the crowd tells you all you need to know. If that doesn't do it, then the fact that parents and their kids continue to play on the playground without skipping a beat should.
It is hard to write a review for "Orozco The Embalmer" simply because this isn't your typical documentary that is trying to say something, nor is it a movie. This is the ugly, unpleasant, cold-hard truth. It isn't something that can be easily dissected or analyzed, rather this is something that can only be experienced on a personal level to understand and appreciate what Tsurisaki has managed to create.