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A Place Called Chiapas

A trip into the perilous state of Chiapas in southern Mexico is taken in this documentary, which focuses on the Zapatista National Liberation Army and its mysterious leader, Subcomandante Marcos. The narration notes that The New York Times has referred to the struggle of the Zapatistas as the "world's first postmodern revolution," and there is a remarkably surreal air at times. At one point Subcomandante Marcos is filmed while posing for the French fashion magazine Marie Claire, yet there can be no denying that the residents he champions are extremely poor. The interviews with farmers who fear they will be murdered by government troops are moving, and a press conference in which tape recordings of death threats are played is disturbing. The film's director, Nettie Wild, has a definite point of view and notes stoically that a memo from American bankers may have inspired the violence directed against the local rebels by the Mexican government. The background of the rebellion in Chiapas is told concisely with most of the film consisting of atmospheric footage showing life in the troubled and violent region. The film crew was itself threatened by right-wing paramilitary death squads, and the paranoia that is an asset in such an environment is tensely translated via filmed encounters with government troops.

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