Week 5- Que Viva Mexico!

Qué Viva México! was originally filmed by famed Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein. However, his primary benefactor, Upton Sinclair, would eventually pull funding for the film when it became clear that Eisenstein was essentially taking an extended vacation in Mexico on Sinclair’s dime. (Hart, 18-19) As such the film was never completed by Eisenstein himself. But, in 1971 Eisenstein’s co-director, Grigory Alexandrov, put the pieces of the film together saying that it was what had originally been intended when Eisenstein was filming in Mexico. (Hart, 19)

With this in mind it is clear that the directors of the movie have a not-so-hidden agenda. They’re Soviet filmmakers filming a movie about a revolution. Communist ideology called for every worker in every country to rise up in revolt, so it is no wonder that the filmmakers would come to Mexico following the Mexican Revolution that started in 1910. (Meyer, 419) The filmmakers wished to highlight a successful revolution and try to spin it in the same vein of the Communist Part with class warfare taking center stage.

Historically, the movie plays pretty close to accurate, even with the Communist overtones. In Qué Viva México! there is a scene where a wife to be is brought before the hacienda owner because she has been engaged. She is subsequently raped by one of the strong men at the hacienda. In Qué Viva México! this scene is meant to show the elite’s having power over the workers, or peons in this case, and taking advantage of this power. Historically it appears that sexual violation was commonplace for young women at a hacienda (Meyer, 401) and in this movie Eisenstein is successfully able to use a historical fact to get across his larger message about class warfare. The scene goes on to show the husband rising up to fight against the landowner and his men, but ultimately the husband and his compatriots are killed, once again showing undertones of class warfare.

The problem with Eisenstein’s film is that it exploits the Mexican people much like foreign corporations did before the Revolution of 1910. Before the Revolution there were American, French, German, and English investors across the country, reaping the profits of the Mexican country (Meyer, 390) without giving much back to the country itself. They came, set up shop, got what they wanted, and left. Eisenstein does much the same thing. He films his movie with his own ideology in mind making the Mexican people a vehicle for his ideas, much as foreign investors used the Mexican people as a vehicle to their huge profits. The Mexican actors in Eisenstein’s film are silent and the viewer has no idea what they are really saying. This becomes glaringly obvious at the end when the Communist ideology comes full circle narrating that the land owner class will die out. (Hart, 22) But there is no mention of how the Mexican people feel, they do not get to speak for themselves. Instead the story is narrated showing the viewer the director’s own view, not the reality on the ground. Eisenstein may have rallied against those who would have taken advantage of the Mexican people for profit, but he did just the same, instead taking advantage of them to get his message of revolution and class warfare across.

In the end Eisenstein’s movie was a historically accurate picture of what was taking place in Mexico, however he clearly had an agenda that overshadowed what he filmed. While the portrayal of life on a hacienda is semi-accurate, that does not excuse the Communist overtones in the scene. The Mexican actors become silent vehicles that are used to spread Soviet ideology instead of expressing their own feelings on the recent revolution that has taken place and the future of Mexico.