El 2 de Octubre No Se Olvida: A Look Back at Films About the 1968 Student Protests in Mexico

Read more

On October 2, Mexico commemorates the anniversary of one of the most infamous events in recent history: la matanza de Tlatelolco, in which hundreds of students were shot and killed by government forces during a pro-democracy demonstration held in the Mexico City neighborhood of the same name.

Inspired by the utopian euphoria of 1968, students across Mexico had begun to coalesce into a broad social movement with leftist leanings called the Movimiento de ’68 in the months prior to the killing. Spurred along by a federation of universities and high schools called the National Strike Council (CNH), students held marches and general strikes across the country in protest of the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s (PRI) decidedly anti-democratic leanings, and their repression of political dissent in the months leading up to notorious 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

While no doubt much has changed in Mexico since the bad old days of the government’s “Dirty War” against internal opposition, this year the country was rocked once again by the shooting death of 6 people and disappearance of 43 students from the left-leaning rural teacher’s college at Ayotzinapa following a protest and press conference in which the students demanded economic support from the government. While details of the incident are still hazy, what is clear is that local police forces from the the city of Iguala in the school’s home state of Guerrero were directly involved in the shooting and abduction of the students, almost all of whom came from impoverished families from the Mexican countryside.

Understandably, the municipal police’s role in the massacre and the deep links between state government and local drug cartels that have surfaced in the aftermath have mobilized the country and led to global demands for justice. “Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos”, has become the rallying cry for activists demanding that the government locate the disappeared students and bring those responsible to justice. In honor of the “National Day of Action for Ayotzinampa,” we take a look back at a handful of films that have explored the traumatic events at Tlatelolco over the decades, in hopes that one day history might actually stop repeating itself.

El Grito
Director: Leobardo López Aretche
Year: 1968

The only film made from within the student movement, El Grito is the product of 8 hours of film taken at Tlatelolco by students at the UNAM’s historically left-leaning film department, el CUEC. Infused with the urgency of its historical moment, this film is both a priceless historical document and a testament to the power of cinema in the fight for social change.

Rojo Amanecer
Director: Jorge Fons
Year: 1989

In 1968, award-winning Mexican director Jorge Fons was a student at el CUEC and has gone on to become one of its most illustrious graduates. This film follows two days in the life of a typical middle class family that happens to live in the apartment complex immediately adjacent to the plaza where the massacre take place. As the family attends to their banal daily rituals, bloody repression begins to unfold at their doorstep.

Tlatelolco: Las claves de la masacre
Director: Carlos Mendoza
Year: 2003

This investigative documentary brings together every known testimony regarding the massacre, identifying key figures from the military and special forces who were directly involved in the killings, in an effort to bring to light the still very obscure military operation surrounding the incident.

Borrar de la memoria
Director: Alfredo Gurrola
Year: 2011

A narrative take on Tlatelolco more than four decades after the fact, Borrar de la memoria is a mystery that follows the parallel stories of two lovers, one of whom was caught up in the events of October 2nd.

Tlatelolco, verano del 68
Director: Carlos Bolado
Year: 2012

A Romeo and Juliet story from a time of increasing class polarization,Tlatelolco, verano del 68 tells the fictional story of two lovers from different social classes, one of whom studies at the private Universidad Iberoamericana, the other a student activist at UNAM. The film was helmed by award-winning director Carlos Bolado, who is currently in development on another feature titled Tlatelolco68 about an American journalist covering the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics.