Saturday, February 13, 2010


Runningtime: 89min
Genre: Documentary
Language: English / Spanish / Canada

Masked Zapatista comandantes captured the world media's attention in 1994 when the Mayan Indians of Chiapas came out of the jungle to reclaim the ranches and towns that had overtaken their land. Dramatic uniforms and press releases from the Ejército Zapatista de Liberaci?n Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation, EZLN), embodied in the figure of Subcomandante Marcos, drew admirers from die-hard communists to French fashion magazines.

But aside from news briefs about the massacres during the last five years, the people of Chiapas were virtually ignored by most news sources. The documentary A Place Called Chiapas, by Nettie Wild, captures one facet of the struggle of the New World: the marginalization and exploitation of indigenous peoples in the Americas that continues today. Filmed during the first year of the uprising, the film offers a singular, intelligent vision of this ongoing conflict.

Through images and narrative, Wild shows the disparity between the haves (mestizo ranchers, descendents of both Indians and Spanish) and the have-nots (the Tzotzil Indians, descendents of the Mayans). One family complains of losing three of their four ranches to the Zapatistas; another family wonders when they can end their refuge in the jungle and return to their home after a paramilitary group drives them out.

These people are caught between two societies: that of the 70-year dynasty of the PRI, the ruling party of Mexico, and the philosophical revolutionaries of the Lancandon Jungle. Wild also portrays the tension felt as the peace talks stretch out; members of the Jolnixte village side with either the Zapatistas or the pro-government paramilitary group Peace and Justice, and a stand-off ensues.

After the screenings, Wild, members of the Mexico Solidarity Network (MSN), and local groups supportive of the people of Chiapas have discussed the situation with the audience. Now, the number of refugees has gone from 200 to 20,000 and there are over 20 paramilitary groups in Chiapas. Wild uses the discussions to help viewers understand the complex history of this volatile region, and through her work with the MSN and local groups (such as Seattle's Committee Against Repression and For Democracy in Mexico) gives the public avenues through which they can help the refugees.

"The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico,
is not a political revolution,
but a human revolution;
not revolution for power,
but revolution of power;
not revolution of party,
but revolution of humanity;
not revolution of exclusion,
but revolution of inclusion;
not revolution of arms,
but revolution of spirit.
íViva Zapatista!
íYa Basta!"

--EZLN statement


A Place Called Chiapas Trailer

WSU Progressive Film Series | MySpace Video

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