The compilation of short films, Revolución, brought together under the production of Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna to mark the centennial of the country’s revolution, raises questions about the perverted and warped idea of revolution in modern times.
Some of the shorts themselves are a bit standard fare for the short film category, with allegory pushed to the forefront and symbolism delivered in a rather heavy-handed manner. Nonetheless, a bittersweet, and perhaps cynical, contemplation can be taken away from the whole.
Different failures and hypocrisies of the revolution can be seen throughout the compilation. A political delegation fails to arrive at a village where they are expected by a tuba player and his orchestra in Fernando Eimbcke’s contribution and class relations are left unresolved at a drunken picnic in Carlos Reygada’s short.
The boldest indictment is Rodrigo Pla’s short which tells of Pancho Villa’s grandson’s participation in a political rally, having been manipulated by the political figure leading the centennial celebrations. The official exploits and manipulates Villa’s grandson’s presence in order to distort and subvert the significance of the revolution and within that framework stir up nationalism and submission from the attendees. This was probably the strongest in the set of shorts, as the use of still photography applied itself appropriately to the exposé-style storyline.
Pla’s short and Revolución in general succeed also because of the universal applicability of the filmmakers’ discontent and frustration with their country’s state of affairs. Just north of Mexico, an entire industry has been built on the basis of subverting and manipulating the imagery and language of the revolutionary Boston Tea Party, for the political and economic gain of large corporate entities.
Even on less political terms, in the Western world, dissent has become almost wholly commoditised, and you can’t be a true revolutionary without the proper brand of tennis shoe, leather jacket, or any other aesthetic forms that reference those that once upon a time opposed and shocked the conformist mentality of mainstream society. Thomas Frank, former columnist for the Wall Street Journal, summarized it well back in the 90s, “It has become difficult to understand the countercultural idea as anything more than the self-justifying ideology of the new bourgeoisie that has arisen since the 1960s… The anointed cultural opponents of capitalism are now capitalism’s ideologues”. Watching Revolución, much of this absorption and exploitation of counterculture and revolution by the establishment can be witnessed, the original ideals stripped of their meaning; though some of contributions are lacking, there’s much to ruminate over afterwards.