On September 26, 2014, 43 students disappeared in Ayotzinapa, México. A year later, there is still no definite answer as to what happened to these students. An investigation and report was released recently, which stated that the students were murdered by the violent group Guerreros Unidos. Yet, the parents of the missing students refuse to believe it. What is true to them is that their sons are missing and that justice won’t be served.
Tragic news stories like the one described above have always found a way to inspire filmmakers. Picture this: A governor accepts money from a narco. The event is caught on tape and sent to the local television channel. The story blows up. The governor approaches the tv channel. They accept a sum of money in order to remake the governor’s image. This is the plot of the Mexican movie, The Perfect Dictatorship.
The film is a satire with the objective of criticizing the corruption of the Mexican government and media. The story moves on from there, to demonstrate several different cases of how information is handled and framed by the media. In this case, the media is trying to make the people forget about the corruption of the governor and even propose him as a candidate for presidency.
The point of the story is to demonstrate how much influence the media can have on the political affairs of a country. The director and writer, Luis Estrada, claims that he drew on current events for the plot of the movie. There was no need to look far, when the real drama had been happening all along.
The movie puts the workings of a government into perspective. It’s no secret that the Mexican government is corrupt. But, what the movie is trying to highlight is the power of money and how money can corrupt even those who are supposed to stand by the people. The Perfect Dictatorship shows how the media is no longer a source of truth and empowerment for the people, but simply a tool used by those in power. This is a huge deal in a country like Mexico, where there is a growing gap between rich and poor. The poor have limited educational resources and will believe what they see in TV. Hence, the narratives of the media become truth to the people and power machines for the rich.
One of my favorite things I learned from the movie is the Chinese Box (La Caja China) tactic. The idea is that when there is a main story that is getting attention, but you don’t want it to (in the case of the movie, the corruption of the governor) you find another story that will distract attention and will be put into the headlines instead. Ha! Sounds like something that seems to happen in the news a lot and everywhere.
The case of the 43 students has been one of the most heard and talked about worldwide. Sadly, this type of violence occurs everyday in Mexico. We don’t hear much about it. Well, at least not through the media.
Although the Perfect Dictatorship seems to be showing an exaggerated account of how things occur, it does not seem to be too far from the truth. What happened to the 43 students? There is still not a truthful answer and only the heart-broken mothers and fathers of the students are still looking for justice. The public has forgotten and has instead been fed stories that the media has decided are more relevant.
I hope the families of the students find peace soon. I hope justice is served. Looking at a case like this, it seems as though all hope is lost. But then, I think about the film. I am reminded that there are ways to push truth forward through art. If the media won’t stand by the truth, then something else must. So, as witnesses to violence we must not stay silent. We must create, we must ask questions, we must write, and sing, and paint and yell until our voices are heard. Because a perfect dictatorship can only happen if we allow it.