Felipe Cazals

Scen.: Tomás Pérez Turrent. F.: Alex Phillips Jr. M.: Rafael Ceballos. Scgf.: Carlos Grandjeant. Int.: Arturo Alegro (Ramón Calvario Gutiérrez), Roberto Sosa Sr. (Julián González Baez), Carlos Chávez (Miguel Flores Cruz), Gerardo Vigil (Jesús Carrillo Sánchez), Jaime Garza (Roberto Rojano Aguirre), Sergio Calderón (presidente municipale), Salvador Sánchez (il testimone), Ernesto Gómez Cruz (Lucas). Prod.: Roberto Lozoya per Conacine-STPC. DCP. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Towards the beginning of Canoa, a corrupt priest tells his congregation that “outsiders” are coming to their small, impoverished pueblo – to plunder their homes, steal their children, burn their sacred figures and hang a Communist flag: “red like the devil and black like their sins”. Set in 1968, the film recounts the true story of the slaughter of a group of university employees at the hands of an angry mob on 14 September in San Miguel Canoa. Just a few weeks later on 2 October the Mexican army, under orders from the government, would murder more than 300 students at the now infamous massacre at Tlatelolco.

Featuring a bold screenplay by writer and journalist Tomás Pérez Turrent (a student of the French New Wave) and stark, chiaroscuro photography by Alex Phillips Jr, the film is brutal in its critique of contemporary Mexican social-control structures – religion, the military, the government, state media – and formally daring in its use of a faux documentary style, non-linear narrative and unreliable narrators. In an early sequence, a newsreel-style voiceover about the town is juxtaposed with a to-camera monologue delivered by a resident – the two accounts are wholly different and neither, it turns out, is entirely true. The sense of discord and estrangement that this creates in the viewer intensifies as the film builds to its violent denouement.
It is worth noting that a film so critical of the state was made during a period of record state involvement and investment in film production, distribution and exhibition, overseen by President Luis Echeverría, who took office in 1970 (he was Secretary of State between 1964 and 1969). A simmering synthesis of collective anxieties about violence, repression and the imagined dissolution of social norms, Canoa showed audiences both at home and abroad a Mexico perhaps never before seen on film, worlds away from the heightened melodrama and formal conservatism of the Golden Age period.

Chloë Roddick

Copy From

Restored in 4K by Criterion Collection with the supervision of Felipe Cazals