Que Viva Mexico! by Sergei Eisenstein is a film about life in Mexico during the early 1900′s. The raw footage and documentary feel of the film made it easier to comprehend life during this time period. During the six separate pieces of the film, a different aspect of the Mexican culture was displayed. During the prologue, images of the Mayan pyramids are seen, then a funeral. In the Tehuantepec, a traditional marriage ceremony is the focus. In the Fiesta, many different traditions are presented, including a bullfight which emphasizes Spanish culture. During The Maguey Cactus, which is a plant containing a substance used to get intoxicated, Sebastian and Maria are about to get married, but she must follow the customs and gets raped. Her groom-to-be gets enraged, tries to fight back, and is unsuccessful this time. His bride-to-be is imprisoned because of his actions. Sebastian and two of his friends revolt against the ranch and ultimately pay the price for defending Maria. At the end of this episode, Maria sees Sebastian after he died by trampling of horses. Soldadera, which was the only episode that wasn’t completely finished, was about the women during the Mexican revolution. In the last piece called The Day of the Dead, the indigenous people of Mexico rise above the elite. The people attending the Day of the Dead carnival are in masked at the beginning, and take them off at the end of the film and the young faces are revealed. This shows the freedom and future of the Mexican people.
There was a significant amount of drama surrounding this film. The main director, Sergei Eisenstein, never fully completed the production himself. No one will ever know exactly what direction the film would have went in if finished by Eisenstein. This film was strongly supported by Upton Sinclair, but he and Eisenstein clashed on the path of the film (Hart 18). “But after the initial three months ran out, and Eisenstein was clearly not close to producing a finished product, Sinclair decided to pull the funding on the project. As he later explained: ‘What first led us to distrust him was that when the money was spent he wrote us that we’d have to send more or we’d have no picture…’” (Hart 19). Because of this issue, Sinclair kept all the footage produced by Eisenstein and would not let him edit the film in any way (Hart 19). There were obviously hard feelings to Sinclair from Eisenstein because he felt Sinclair wouldn’t let his true vision for the film be seen. Because of how raw the footage was, it made Que Viva Mexico! an outstanding film that told many different stories during the revolutionary period in Mexico. Many films were made about times like this as well, but no other film has such real footage like this one. The film definitely captured how the indigenous people lived separately and together with the elite. Ultimately, the indigenous, young faces become the new, bright future of Mexico. “Similar to Alexander Dovzhenko’s film Earth, Que Viva Mexico! addresses a theme almost too big for a move, namely, the interplay between life and death” (Hart 20). It is very refreshing to see a film so true in nature about life and death during the Mexico revolutionary. This film is more incredible because of the fact Eisenstein did film such raw footage and he didn’t give up on his dream of capturing real life. For example, we saw a traditional wedding ceremony as well as a Spanish influenced bullfight. Even though he didn’t get to fully complete the film himself, it seems that his vision was brought out in the final production. Furthermore, Eisenstein did cause quite the up roar in Hollywood because of this film, “The debates concerning his uncompleted film Qué Viva México!—perhaps the most written about film of the 1930s—forced leftist film critics like William Troy, Pare Lorentz, Leo Hurwitz, and Ralph Steiner to revise their beliefs that they could simply ignore Hollywood, and its practices in order to promote an alternative independent and avant-garde cinema” (Robe 18). This is another reason why this movie is an inspirational piece of history. Eisenstein was passionate about the film and it certainly showed through the footage.
Eisenstein’s film Que Viva Mexico! was a very raw, real, intense look at life during the Mexican revolutionary period. He pushed all boundaries during this time to make sure a true film he was passionate about creating, even though he didn’t get to edit the final production. “So, to repeat, the debates on Qué Viva México! prepared American leftist film critics for a Popular Front attitude toward film. These debates not only showed the extreme limits placed on radical film distribution in the United States but also compelled critics to examine how they might influence—or be influenced by—Hollywood because, like it or not, Hollywood provided the main access to the larger audiences that many progressive critics felt they needed to reach, even if it meant sacrificing some of their earlier, more radical positions in the process” (Robe 30).