Dec 4, 2007

Review of A Movie I Haven't Seen III

The New York Times reports that Luis Mandoki's documentary on Andrés Manuel López Obrador, "Fraude, Mexico 2006", has been a huge box office success in Mexico and that people are screaming at the screens in frustration for what the documentary clearly, to judge from the title, considers the fraudulent win of the current President, Felipe Calderón.
I have not seen the movie but I understand it is a deeply one sided affair that portrays AMLO as a victim of corporate and government manipulation. Perhaps it is true, but how can you believe a documentary that is financed in part by one of AMLO's friends and that has clear subjective leanings towards its hero?
In the period before the election, Mr. Mandoki made a glowing biographical film about Mr. López Obrador, a populist who promised to end tax breaks for the rich and break up monopolies.The new film, “Fraud, Mexico 2006,” lays out in detail the arguments of leftists who say the combination of a smear campaign and fraud at polling places swung the election to President Calderón. Mr. Mandoki got financial backing for the movie from Federico Arreola, a journalist, entrepreneur and close campaign adviser to Mr. López Obrador.
It would not have killed Mr. Mandoki to balance it out a bit. AMLO is not a little innocent political dove. He gives as good as he gets. It would have been far more interesting if the documentary was more nuanced and showed the disgraceful circus on both sides that is Mexican politics.
What is troubling is that Warner Brothers had enthusiastically decided to support the film, and according to Mandoki, it bowed out due to pressure from Televisa, the long time Mexican media conglomerate. They claimed it was because they decided that a documentary in Mexico would not be profitable. This would be laughable if it weren't so repulsively cynical. After the mass demonstrations AMLO commandeered in Mexico City, where hundreds of thousands of people disrupted life for months on end, how could anyone think that nobody'd be interested in such a film? Mexicans are always starved for the actual truth. They love reading, talking and making jokes about their own reality, and finally a film comes out about it, and the pretext is that it's not profitable.
It is insulting, to say the least.
In what must feel like a delicious dose of schadenfreude to the producers, the film has grossed about a million dollars to date, a huge amount for a documentary in Mexico. Maybe the media conglomerates will learn a little lesson that strongarming and trying to silence a film is not good for business.
As a first successful political documentary in Mexico, it's a good thing, but I'm not surprised that this is what we get: we are still not there yet when it comes to true plurality of opinions.

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