Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendía? review – an expert deep dive

By Marc Miller
Published: July 14, 2021 (Last updated: December 9, 2022)
Netflix documentary Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendía?


Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendía? is a crime documentary that never loses its focus on the human element of the case, and it’s all the better for it.

Netflix documentary Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendía? was released on the streaming service on July 14, 2021. 

There has been an outstanding number of killed and missing journalists and other media employees in Mexico since the year 2000. Over 100 individuals have given their lives for the importance of freedom of the press in or near Mexico City. Why does it keep happening other than general lawlessness? Do what works. Since May 30th, 1984, to be exact. That’s when the writer of one of the region’s most popular columns, Red Privada (“Private Network”), was murdered in cold blood and left to die on the scorching hot streets of Mexico City.

Manuel Buendía was brutally gunned down in the streets. Shot in cold blood on the hot Mexican streets in the back several times for reporting the facts about drug trafficking ties to political corruption. If it works, the murdering of public figures with no consequences, why stop? He was a pioneer, known for his blunt and direct style of reporting. It didn’t matter if you worked in public service, law enforcement, organized crime, or drug trafficking; he would report it, and people would read it. It was published in over 200 papers country-wide.

That’s the crux of the Netflix documentary Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendía? He is a man of unimpeachable ethics and journalistic standards, which cost him his life in the process. Though, is it that simple? In his directorial debut, Manuel Alcalá (Museo) constructs a narrative outline that points to force ties between drug lords, politicians, Mexican secret police, Mexican right-wing militant groups, and even the CIA.

Officially, it took almost five years for the Mexican courts to find justice. One of the killers was even the great grand nephew of former President Manuel Ávila Camacho, who happened to be a DFS agent (The Dirección Federal de Seguridad Federal Security Directorate), which was Mexico’s intelligence agency and secret police at the time. Still, many speculate they were just the hired help.

Alcalá, along with the help of producer Pedro Alcalá López (Foreign Nationals), gives an extraordinary deep dive into the facts that point to forces beyond the handful of men convicted and the others who were murdered before they could sing. Like the 100 missing media members mentioned above, many journalists feel Buendía’s assassination was improperly investigated. Nearly everyone who covered thinks the masterminds were not convicted. Not to mention DFS agents and CIA operatives that ransacked Buendía’s offices immediately after his murder.

The final product has everything you want in a crime documentary based on journalists’ accounts. An uncommon case is linked to a bigger picture and answers enough questions while leaving many unanswered. The shady dealings, the backroom meetings, the nefarious activities that leave a line between the good and bad guys, strangely blurred.

Though, Alcalá never forgets the human element here of a 58-year-old trailblazer who believed in what he was doing always had a higher purpose. To hold those accountable in public service that was allowing bad men to do very bad things. That’s who Manuel Buendía was. Even if it meant reporting when he knew it came with a warning label.

Like Alcalá does with Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendía? he never forgets that. Neither should we.

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