A Massacre Foretold

A Massacre Foretold


Reviewed by: David Stanners

A Massacre Foretold documents the 1997 massacre of a group of peaceful residents in south Mexico during a quiet prayer meeting.

The EIFF 2007 screening begins with a 13-minute documentary, Mentiras, in which a delegate tells the story of how he was recruited by the ruling PPI party with the aim of forming a paramilitary force to heavily dent the work of the Zapatista movement based in Chiapas, an impoverished state in south Mexico. The Zapatistas were and still are, a revolutionary movement aiming to break away from the Mexican government. Fiercely anti-Western, its aims are to encourage indigenous Mexican identity through revolutionary means. Those massacred were not Zapatistas, but peaceful supporters of the cause. For this, they paid a hefty price.

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As the main documentary moves on, it becomes evident the paramilitary groups were used by the government as a demolition vehicle against the Zapatistas. A hush-hush operation was carried out by lower rank officials, who scoured the slums looking for the poorest and neediest. Providing arms, a uniform and a sense of belonging, the government stealthily manifested a paramilitary group able to carry out its dirty work, while hypocritically appearing on the media with gaping mouths and condemnation for the atrocity after it happened.

We learn how the religious authorities were recruited as a mediator between the Zapatistas and the government in the ongoing disputes between the two sides. This was a convenient government PR gimmick to provide the necessary cover from what was about to happen.

Even if the government did not pull the trigger directly, Higgins underlines their overall responsibility by outlining individual testimonies with surviving family members and human rights groups, all of which movingly point towards the horror of the situation. Some mention a feeling of dread and foreboding amongst the community in the immediate run up to the massacre. One woman said: “We could feel we were being targeted and hunted, and that something bad could happen.”

Higgins has done a good job in telling an untold story of political deception of which there are probably hundreds, but far less trendy than Iraq or the middle-east. The main problem with A Massacre Foretold is that it takes a while to untangle itself and present a coherent message of what is happening to whom and where. A little more background on the Zapatista movement and the government’s role at the beginning would have made things clearer. This said, when it finds its legs it becomes a fascinating watch. These things never end happily though, and it seems that the Mexican President conveniently left office walking into the sunset soon after the events. No trial, no questions, no justice, he is now a Professor at Yale University, while the Zapatista movement continues as a movement from below.

In the end it was destruction for nothing.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2007
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A Massacre Foretold packshot
Documentary about the massacre of a group of indigenous Mexicans by government backed paramilitaries.

Director: Nick Higgins

Writer: Nick Higgins

Year: 2007

Runtime: 58 minutes

Country: UK, Mexico


EIFF 2007

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