Two versions of the 68: October 2nd: This is Mexico and The Olympics in Mexico

Two documentaries recount adjacent events that share the same time

Por Carlos Solís, Bollo negro

15 may 2018


One of the models to analyze the importance of 1968 is under the microscope of sociology and history, among other social sciences. According to Immanuel Wallerstein, the 68 is the moment in which an important disagreement decants for the world hegemonies by groups of educated people from the post-war generation; 68 failed if it is interpreted as an incursion to take power, but it triumphed if we consider it as a way to break the empire of the liberal geoculture that ruled the world.

On the one hand, we have the documentary October 2nd: This is Mexico by Óscar Menéndez, an independent production that recounts the events that took place in the square of Tlatelolco, through a narrator who uses a language that alludes to historical materialism. He comments on the beginning of the movement and addresses the issue of political prisoners in Lecumberri, with an interesting audiovisual and sound design. The cinematographic part contains images that perfectly represent moments in the Square of the Three Cultures, as well as traditionalist sequences of the student movement and the ex-prison of Lecumberri, which allows putting a face to the movement. The sound has a design that goes from voice over to metronomes or percussions or music, depending on the sequence that is running. It also has this line of openly demanding a frank and anti-establishment justice, which is inherent to the movement of 68.

Three weeks after the tragedy in Tlatelolco, the 1968 Olympic Games stands out for some feats, such as the lighting of the cauldron, which was lit for the first time by a woman, or the unbeatable (Olympian) record of Beau Beaumont. All of this requires to be archived and that is the true purpose of the documentary, poorly titled, The Olympics in Mexico. Filmed on 35 mm color celluloid and optimized for 70 mm, the film has quite similarities to The Triumph of the Will (Riefenstahal, 1935), especially with the use of slow motion, a resource that enriches the appreciation of the sports disciplines giving it a more contemplative tone.

The narration refers to brief explanations about the competition, the athletes and the exponents; there are the confrontations of the Cold War in a sports context: the arduous competition between East and West represented by the United States and the Soviet Union. As well as the -black power- raised fist of the runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the gold medal of Mexican Felipe Muñoz in the 200 meters chest style, the dramatic riding competition in Avándaro, the cycling road to Mexico City or the tortuous marathon that reduced a large part of the group. The archive works as a memory mechanism of the Olympic encounter, however, it is not ignored that the analogy with The Triumph of the Will is not gratuitous; both share a background of repression, although an impeccable seal of quality.

These two documentaries should be seen as a whole: one of them is the reason for the existence of the other, without intending to. I recommend getting rid of any element that could generate a bias; it should be seen as a piece of history in which these two events coexisted in the same momentum. The exercise is to contrast versions and at the end expand it with all that already exists on the subject.

*One last favor: try not to laugh at a Greek pole vaulter.* 



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