Friday, November 12, 2010

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Last night the Culture Desk took in a screening of a new documentary, Women of the Mexican Revolution. We planned to write a short blurb about the film, but instead we’re going to spend a few hundred words bitching about the presentation. Join us, won't you?

The screening was held in the Teatro de la Republica, and the place was packed – in our experience, something rarely ever said about a documentary screening. The story was to culminate with the writing of the Mexican Constitution in 1917 – which took place in the very room we were sitting in. It’s like watching Rocky at the Philadelphia Spectrum. This thing had us at hello.

[Heroes of the Mexican Revolution (right) confronting vaginas (left).]

Unfortunately, “Hello" was only the beginning. This is not an uncommon thing in Mexico; at the risk of generalizing, there are few things a certain class of education Mexicans enjoys more than the sound of their own voices. So before we could watch the movie we were treated to not one, but five (5!) speakers. The first four women stole 25 minutes of our lives thanking each other at great length (one, Maestra Patricia Palacios Sierra of the Department of Globalization, Modernization and Regional Development of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Querétaro, was referred to by that complete title by each of the other speakers) before launching into four remarkably similar, painfully earnest disquisitions on the role of women in the Mexican Revolution. There were apparently ten or 12 key female figures in the Revolution. All had three or four names. All were listed in alphabetical order in each woman’s speech. Note to Mexican academics: if all three of the speakers preceding you have read off the same list of names, it’s worth taking a moment to edit your own remarks.

(We know there’s nothing worse than gringos who badger Mexicans about the way we do things back home, but for the record, when we screen a documentary, there’s usually some quick opening remarks, a round of thank-yous to the people who opened their checkbooks, and a jaunty “hope you enjoy the show!”)

Fifth up at the microphone, after a reading of her lengthy biography, which was already printed up in the programs we all had in our hands, was the producer, Ana Cruz Navarro, who took several minutes to thanks all the previous speakers ("...and especially Maestra Patricia Palacios Sierra of the Department of Globalization, Modernization and Regional Development of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Querétaro..."), and then talked about the role of women in the Mexican Revolution for twenty-five minutes. It’s worth reiterating that Sra. Cruz has written and produced a one-hour documentary on exactly that topic, which 1000 people had at that point been waiting to watch for over 50 minutes. Won’t all this be covered in the film? we wondered.

It would be another 45 minutes before we found out, since the lights went down, the engineer pressed PLAY, and nothing happened. And other than continuing repeatedly to press PLAY, there was nothing resembling a backup plan. After a while, random audience members came over to see if they could help. Someone volunteered the use of their laptop. The problem was the DVD itself, of which - unfathomably, unless you’re in Mexico - there appeared to be only one single copy. While this was going on, the chattering ladies thought it would be a good time to open up the floor to questions about the documentary none of us had seen. Mercifully, the film started up on the 400th pressing of the PLAY button, a mere hour and 45 minutes after we’d taken our seats.

How was it? Well, let’s just say there’s a reason the Burro Hall Audio/Visual Division outsources most of its work to the US. But as a night at the movies, it was unforgettable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Boy, you can't buy that kind of fun here!

M