In 'Perfect Dictatorship,' Mexican Viewers May Struggle To Decipher Fact From Fiction

Oct 22, 2014
Originally published on October 22, 2014 6:28 pm
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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A new move playing in Mexican theaters not only has a provocative title and an equally incendiary plot but incredible timing too. "The Perfect Dictatorship" is a political black comedy by Mexico's controversial filmmaker Luis Estrada. It opened last week, as the real life story of 43 kidnapped students abducted by corrupt cops working for crooked politicians, dominates the news there. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports that the movie's plot of political corruption and media collusion is so close to reality, moviegoers struggle to decipher fact from fiction.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The movie opens with the country's newly elected handsome young president greeting an elderly U.S. ambassador. In his broken English, the clueless president urges the ambassador to open his borders and let Mexico's hard-working people come on over.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE PERFECT DICTATORSHIP")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) We are waiting to do all the dirty jobs, not even the [bleep] wanted to do.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Uh.

KAHN: The racist gaffe goes viral on social media and the country's television conglomerate steps in to repair the damage. Sinister TV execs find a better scandal to distract national attention. All is well until the distraction, a bumbling state governor, played by veteran Mexican actor Damian Alcazar, hires the media moguls to fix his image too.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE PERFECT DICTATORSHIP")

DAMIAN ALCAZAR: (As Carmelo Vargas) (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Another scandal emerges and on it goes for two and a half hours. It's like "Wag The Dog" meets the 1970's satirical comedy "Network" meets TV's "Law And Order," each superseding scandal ripped from the headlines. Director Luis Estrada speaking at a press conference before the film's debut, says any resemblance to modern-day Mexico is, well, intentional.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

LUIS ESTRADA: This movie, it's a satire about a moment, a very precise moment, that is the one we are living in.

KAHN: A Mexico, Estrada says, where deceitful politicians and powerful media moguls still rule. Televisa, Mexico's dominant broadcaster, who looks a lot like the movie's Television Mexicana, originally signed on to distribute "The Perfect Dictatorship" but according to Estrada, backed out after seeing the finished product. Televisa declined comment. The 52-year-old director is no stranger to the consequences of political satire. His 1999 black comedy "Herod's Law," which mocked the pre-party 7-decade rule of Mexico, ran afoul of the National Film Institute, which tried to pull the movie from festivals and theaters. This time, he says, in "The Perfect Dictatorship" he took a wider aim, skewering the left, the right and even the Mexican people, who he says must share the blame for the country's current ills.

ESTRADA: The lack of participation of the society - it's in part very responsible of this huge problems, like corruption, impunity, manipulation, violence.

KAHN: Moviegoer Yolanda Amigot enjoyed the film but says at times it was hard to laugh.

YOLANDA AMIGOT: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Some things were very funny, she said, but then there's things that just look like what's happening now and you get overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness. Director Estrada is unapologetic and relentless, even advertising for the film is biting. Movie posters show a handful of current governors waiting in line to inherit the presidential seat, all with the tagline the media put one president in office, will it do it again? In 2012, Televisa was accused of giving favorable coverage to then candidate Enrique Pena Nieto. The president's office declined to comment about the movie. Estrada says Mexicans need a thicker skin.

ESTRADA: It's only a movie. It's a very provocative, interesting, hard critic acid portrait of the power in Mexico but it's just a movie.

KAHN: Estrada is currently looking for distributor to promote "The Perfect Dictatorship" in the U.S. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.