Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tlatelolco, Summer of 68 (orig. Tlatelolco, Verano del 68) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing

Tlatelolco, Summer of 68 (orig. Tlatelolco, Verano del 68) [2013] (directed by Carlos Bolado, script by Carolina Rivera along with Luis Felipe Ybarra and Carlos Bolado) is an well written/crafted and certainly significant Mexican historical drama surrounding the events surrounding the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre [Wkpd-ESP]* of at least 300 possibly thousands of Mexican students in Mexico City, just 10 days prior to the opening of the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.  The film played recently to repeatedly sold out audiences at the 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival

This tragedy, indeed Tiananmen-style crime, had been quickly buried (the blood quite literally hosed away...) by Mexico's authorities wishing to present a welcoming/peaceful (and above all "in control") face to the 1968 Summer Games even as the rest of the world (from the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in the United States, to street protests against the U.S.-led War in Vietnam across the United States and Western Europe, to the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia) seemed to be in chaos.

This was also an event like the Cristero Rebellion (that finally brought the chaos of the Mexican Revolution to an end) that was both KNOWN BY JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY IN MEXICO but NOT PUBLICLY DISCUSSED (let alone taught in schools...) until after the year 2000 (more than 30 years later...) when Vicente Fox became the first non-PRI candidate to be elected President of Mexico since the end of the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s. 

I first heard of the Tlatelolco Massacre [Wkpd-ESP]* from my teacher when I was in Guadalajara to learn Spanish back in the late 1990s.  She presented it to me as precisely a Tienanmen-style massacre that no one outside of Mexico knew about and no one inside Mexico was allowed to openly discuss.  Her parents were students, in Guadalajara, at the time... The lack of opportunity, indeed "permission" to discuss this event in decades past, help explain the sold-out crowds when the film was shown at the Latino Film Festival here in Chicago (Chicago having the largest Mexican-American population in the United States, second only to Los Angeles).  This was first film of its kind (other than a documentary made only a few years previous) about the massacre. 

The film makers for their part did IMHO a very good job in presenting the human complexities/tragedy of this story.  Thankfully they felt no need to further propagandize the story to promote any particular current agenda, as the tragedy of the story told itself:  Those who were massacred were students.  Hence, even though they were to some extent "elite," they also came from a broad base of society.  Mixed among those students protesting (and later being shot...) were sons and daughters of both those in power AND those who (like the world over) were the first ones from their families who've made it to college.

Indeed the two central protagonists in the film were (1) Maria Elena (played by Cassandra Ciangherotti) who was portrayed as coming from a rich family and the daughter of Ernesto (played by Juan Manuel Bernal) portrayed as a significant if still upper-mid-level government official at the Ministry of the Interior and whose grandfather Flavio (played by Juan Carlos Colombo) had been a hero of the Mexican Revolution and (2) Felix (played by Christian Vasquez) who was an architecture student at the Instituto Polytecnico in Mexico City, the first from his family to make it to college and whose older brother Paco (played by Armando Hernández) was a plainclothes policeman in Mexico City.  BOTH Maria Elena's father and especially Felix' brother warned their idealistic kin to avoid/stop participating in the student demonstrations that were growing in Mexico City during the summer of 1968, telling them these demonstrations could only end badly.  Of course they didn't stop participating in the protests, and of course their more informed kin were right ...

It's a real tragedy and those who did die deserve to be remembered.  To be honest (and writing now with the perspective of a 50 year old ... ;-), I'm not sure what the students would have necessarily accomplished if they had succeeded (it's one thing to protest the way things are, it's another to actually know how to fix it...).

On the other hand, for the sake of a "calm" Olympics, Mexico's authorities decided to have them as "tranquil as a cemetery ..." and what would it have really mattered if they had just let the students protest?  Mexico would have been "just like every other place (free) at the time."  Instead, Mexico's authorities showed themselves, at least for that generation, as "unable to bend."  And one wonders what contributions to Mexico's society (and indeed to the world) were lost among all those students (300 to as many as 3000) who were shot dead... so that the 1968 Olympics could be "calm" (even as the world's athletes themselves made protests against both superpowers anyway...). 

* Immediate machine translation of foreign (in this case Spanish) language links are generally best viewed using Google's Chrome browser.

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