Unsparing ‘Revolucion’

Mexican helmers turn critical eye on their homeland

Mexico’s multipart “Revolucion,” which unspools as a Berlinale Special, world preems today, 100 years after the start of the Mexican Revolution.

Celluloid Dreams has taken worldwide rights.

Produced by Pablo Cruz at Mexican production house Canana, with input from other leading shingles such as Mantarraya and Cine Pantera, the 10 helmers of “Revolucion” are “people who are completely changing the narrative of Mexican film,” said Cruz: Rodrigo Garcia, Patricia Riggen, Carlos Reygadas, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Rodrigo Pla and Mariana Chenillo, plus Canana partners Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.

All broke through, at least as helmers, over past decade, most in the last five years.

“Revolucion” is an omnibus comprising contempo shorts. “The filmmakers were asked to answer the questions,  ‘What are the consequences of the Revolution?’ ‘Was anything gained by the Revolution?’ ‘Is it time for a new one?’ ” Cruz said.

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Igniting in 1910, the Mexican Revolution degenerated into a bloody civil war between ambitious autocrats. Key promises, especially of land reform, were largely never enacted.

“Film, like other arts, should go against things, against what you’re supposed to do or supposed to say,” said Escalante.

“I think the shorts will be very critical, but at the same time voice hope,” said Garcia Bernal.

For Riggen, “Almost nothing’s left. Maybe we’ll have to make another one — another revolution.”

Indeed, rarely is a film so critical of an event whose centenary it marks, while embodying many of the principles — freedom of speech, for one — which the Mexican Revolution ballyhooed and betrayed.

In a laudable move, “Revolucion” is backed by Mexico’s Imcine state film institute.

The shorts voice frustration at Mexico’s lack of change and atavistic violence, and portray the country as a land of broken dreams, its eternal promise never fulfilled. They turn a critical eye on the empty mantras of the Revolution, religion and patriotic ritual.

Canana aims to put out “Revolucion” day-and-date on Nov. 20, the official Revolution anniversary, free of charge in theaters, on a major broadcast network and online.

Above all, says Cruz, “Revolucion” is about empowerment. The Revolution was “bloody and crazed,” said Cruz. “Now Mexico’s going through a crazy, crazy time.

“We’re seeing the same things again: People killed randomly by the narcos, the government’s losing control, dictatorship led by the big corporations, the ever-widening gap between white and ‘tanned-skinned’ people,” he continued.

Cruz added: “The only way we’ll become a mature nation is if we have the chance to reflect on what we’re supposed to be proud of.”

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