¡Que viva México! a film by Sergei Eisenstein (1931) Black and white, 35mm, 90 mins.
In 1931 at the height of the Great Depression, Russian avant-garde filmmaker and Soviet propagandist Sergei Eisenstein traveled to Mexico to shoot the epic ¡Que viva México! Intended as an episodic portrayal of Mexican culture and politics from pre-Conquest civilization to the Mexican revolution, little did Eisenstein know that he would never be able to complete the film in his lifetime. It would take over four decades for the film negatives to be ressucitated, with Grigori Alexandrov’s editing of the material according to Eisenstein’s original editing plans and montage constructs.
Leaving Mexico in 1932 following a short-lived production, Josef Stalin demanded Eisenstein’s return to the Soviet Union. Eisenstein left Mexico with the intention of having the negatives sent to him in Moscow for the final editing of the film. In vain, American writer Upton Sinclair tried several times to transfer the footage to Russia, but the Soviet Film Industry was instructed not to import the film. Eisenstein had been denounced both as a political renegade and as a Trotskyite, which was, in the eyes of Stalin, a serious offence.
Traversing millenia from the Maya civilization to contemporary times celebrating the Day of the Dead, ¡Que viva México! depicts a timeless Mexico. Opposing images of pagan symbols against Catholic imagery, revolt in the face of conquest and control, Eisenstein’s politically charged signature is at hand. One of the greatest lost masterpieces of avant-garde cinema, ¡Que viva México! lives on as a tribute to what the film could have been, with Eisenstein’s mastery of the film form melding politics, people, and ritual into surreal beauty. His vision erupts as one of hope and transformation for a victorious, modern Mexico – a Mexico’s whose art, poetry and emotion transcend even death.
“Slumbering Mexico. Enslaved Mexico. Fermenting Mexico.
And, finally, Revolutionary Mexico.”
Text Sophie Pinchetti
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