The following is one of the entries from my list of the 100 greatest films (through 2006) from Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Raymundo Gleyzer’s pulsating, deeply moving México, la revolución congelada is a brilliant Argentinean documentary about the “stillborn” 1910 Revolution that failed to bring economic and social justice to Mexico, but, rather, maintained the desperate poverty and hunger of the country’s indigenous peasants. Gleyzer, 34, was kidnapped and murdered by Argentina’s ruling military five years after this film. (His films are usually about Argentina.) Gleyzer won for it a special prize at Locarno for Third World production.
The film combines historical documentation, consisting of voiceover and old photographs and newsreel footage in sepia or black and white, as well as footage from the Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City during the 1968 Summer Olympics, which claimed 400 lives, many of them students, and freshly shot material in color. The latter includes material from the 1970 presidential campaign—at least I think at least some of it is fresh—and interviews with rural peasants, for instance, Mayans.
The materials are dazzlingly assembled; the result, trenchant. Gleyzer explores the reasons for the Revolution’s failure, its departure from socialist principles, its co-option by reactionary forces, including middle-class business, and so forth, and the effect of all this on the lives of actual people. At the outset of the Revolution, 1% of Mexicans owned 97% of Mexico’s land; nominal ownership expanded to about 50%, wherein persisting feudalism kept crops that these “owners” raised, on the land that they worked, nearly entirely out of their hands and their children’s mouths, prompting their further victimization by usurious lenders. All this also entailed the collaboration of Mexico’s exploitational neighbor to the north.
The nobility of starving Mayans is apparent in their faces, their willingness to work, their love of family—and their great ancestral stone carvings, which this peerless film also encompasses.
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