Mexican prez campaign sparks passion in helmer

MEXICO CITY — Helmer Luis Mandoki didn’t plan on dedicating the last two years of his life to a political docu.

But the passion he discovered while filming “Innocent Voices,” about the war in El Salvador, was further inflamed when he began documenting the campaign of Mexican leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Now, Mandoki says he is a changed man — and he won’t be going back to the same sort of projects he had happily done for the Hollywood machine.

“You realize your craft has reached a peak, and it is not worth using your craft unless the passion is there in terms of the subject,” Mandoki says.

Not that he won’t be working in Hollywood — he is already prepping several projects, including “The Winged Boy” with Golden Circle Films and another one called “One More Day for Hiroshima.”

Mexico voted on July 2 for its president, and ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon appeared to narrowly win the vote by a margin of less that 0.6%, or 244,000 votes.

Lopez Obrador has challenged the fairness of the vote before Mexico’s top electoral court and Mandoki backs the leftist’s cries of fraud. He says he has the footage to back it up.

“This documentary has become sort of an X-ray where you see not the surface of things but the true situation and you find that nothing has changed. We are still living in a party dictatorship,” Mandoki says.

His campaign footage originally turned into three DVDs. Mandoki keyed into Lopez Obrador’s nationwide network of committed supporters to distribute more than 2 million copies of the first three installments of his docu before the election. At that point, he thought his work was over.

But then came the closest election this country has ever seen.

He quickly produced a fourth installment about the candidate’s demand for a vote-by-vote recount. A fifth will document the alleged fraud.

Mandoki is planning to re-edit his footage into a feature-length docu and has begun to look for interested backers among TV and cable companies.

“It’s going to be very controversial because this is not an interpretation, just obvious images of what has happened,” Mandoki says.

It appears increasingly likely that Mexico’s electoral court will declare the right-wing candidate the winner, and Lopez Obrador is already calling on his followers to dig in for perhaps years of civil resistance.

Says Mandoki: “Mexico is going through a historical moment and most of us are too close to see it clearly right now, but years from now the country is going to look back at this moment as the turning point.”

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