These days in Mexico, if you say “La dictadura perfecta”, you are likely to be understood as referring to a movie. Its title intrigued me, even if I had not heard before of Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian writer who is credited with describing Mexico as the perfect dictatorship in 1990. Nor did I know of film directors Jose and Luis Estrada. So I watched the film with my wife tonight, without prejudice.
Afterwards, Irma explained how the satire related to events that have been public knowledge in the past few years. The movie is disturbing, if you engage. Yet, the film’s own making and circulation in Mexico poses an interesting challenge to the idea of the perfect dictatorship it portrays. Luis Estrada attacks directly President Peña Nieto. I note that such polemic is not unusual here. To give another example I came across today, I translate the following description printed in a national paper:
he has only been an instrument created from a network of interests and individuals that were able to bring him to the Presidency knowing his enormous intellectual limitations, his total ignorance of the country, his lack of vision, his complexes and insecurities, his evident inability to govern and, even so, they conspired on the back of the nation to materialise their objective…
The above suggests a certain liberty of expression, which, in my experience, is not present in the U.S.A or Great Britain and which contradicts the notion of Mexico being a perfect dictatorship. At the same time, the film shows a governor shooting one of his associates because they leeked a document, seconds after inviting a journalist on his payroll to witness the murder “so that he learns how things are done”. With this and many other examples Luis Estrada suggests that those in power see as the best means for maintaining themselves to power either the corruption with money or the physical elimination of those who still have morals and stand up for justice. In this sense, the film also argues that “details” can be ignored by the big bosses, so its own presence could be accepted as long as it doesn’t destabilise the status quo.
How much of this caricature to believe? The movie asks who has the real power: the politician or the controller of mass media? I’d say one needs to dig even deeper than where Estrada has reached, as both the politician and the TV-director play to the tune of their funders (who never appear on scene). It is those links where any society that respects itself should set rules and limits. And as the movie never touches on the issue of “solutions”, it may be clasified as ‘safe’, despite its edging, cutting satire.
If you read Spanish, I suggest the following mix:
El cabo suelto de la dictadura perfecta por Fernanda Solórzano (Letras Libres)
‘La dictadura perfecta’: mas allá de la película por Mario Maraboto (Forbes México)
La dictadura perfecta | La crítica por Alonso Díaz de la Vega (Excelsior)
La dictadura perfecta por Alfonso Flores-Durón y M. (EnFilme)
For more in english: the economist published Political Satire in Mexico