October 12, 2005

Mexico’s 1968 massacre heads for big screen

By Alonso Soto

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - As Mexico struggles for justice in
a 1968 massacre of students, the darkest chapter of political
violence in its recent history, American and Mexican filmmakers
are taking the bloodshed to the big screen.

"Tlatelolco: Mexico 68" focuses on the student protest in
Mexico City that ended in slaughter just days before Mexico
hosted the 1968 Olympic Games.

Government security forces opened fire on protesters on
October 2, 1968, marking the start of a long and violent
campaign against dissidents.

The attack has inspired books, documentaries and local
low-budget films, but this is the first time a U.S. production
company with Hollywood actors has taken it up.

"This is an important film that has to be done to exorcise
the demons of the past," said Everardo Gout, a Mexican director
who with his brother Leopoldo will start shooting next year.

Actors John Leguizamo, a Latino who appeared in "Moulin
Rouge" and "Carlito's Way," and Ryan Phillippe, whose credits
include "Cruel Intentions," will star in the film.

Remembered as the Tlatelolco massacre, the 1968 attack
remains shrouded in mystery. Witnesses said troops shot dead
hundreds of protesters, while officials say communist agitators
fired first, provoking a shootout that killed about 30.

Survivors and victims' relatives saw hope for justice when
President Vicente Fox ended 71 years of single-party rule with
his 2000 election victory and pledged to punish past officials
responsible for the massacre and other crimes.

But federal prosecutors have so far failed to put on trial
the once-powerful officials they say ordered the massacre,
including former President Luis Echeverria.

Makers of "Tlatelolco: Mexico 68" say the script is drawn
from students' recollections and avoids pointing fingers.

Mexico's "dirty war" was not as brutal as those in other
Latin American countries such a Argentina and Chile, but the
Tlatelolco massacre is still present in the collective memory.

Earlier this month, thousands of people marched in Mexico
City to mark the 37th anniversary of the attack and placed
flowers and candles at a stone monument to those killed.

"This is a story that was never told," said Gino Havens,
the film's American writer and co-producer who interviewed
dozens of the massacre survivors to write the script.

Information about the 1968 crackdown was censured for years
by the government and only distributed in underground circles.

"If this film is done right I think it will have a great
impact on the young generations that are so distanced from the
events of 1968," said Francisco Peredo, a professor and Mexican
cinema expert at Mexico City's UNAM university.