Repetition in the Mirrors of Reason

The Cine-Files, issue 11 (fall 2016)

Sophia Serrano

Graduate Student, School of Cinematic Arts, USC

Repetition in the Mirrors of Reason utilizes a range of Mexican archival and documentary footage juxtaposed with a repeating dialogue in order to explore the ways in which the mythology of revolution resurfaces and shifts slightly, in terms of political discourse as well as visual representation. Beginning with the Revolutionary War (1910–1920), moving through the student movement of 1968 (which resulted in the Tlatelolco massacre), and on to the uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in the 1980s–1990s, the video reflects upon the various ways Mexican leftist political groups have been documented and portrayed to international audiences. Alongside these images is a repeating soundtrack, in which the speaker emphasizes a lifelong devotion to one’s cause. However, in the final section, the dialogue is replayed with its original visual track which is taken from Matthew Heinemann’s Cartel Land (2015), revealing the “revolutionary” rhetoric to be spoken by a cartel member discussing drug production and trafficking.

The moment captured here speaks to the way in which individuals within the Mexican Drug War perceive the narcos’ role in the crisis caused by neo-liberal globalization. The hybridized performance of the narco draws upon a leftist revolutionary commitment to the impoverished lower classes, and plays an important and prominent role in today’s media culture. Additionally, this video critiques the limitations of the “traditional” notion of the revolutionary or narco within Mexican culture. These narratives are almost always centered on a single masculine identity despite the fact that women consistently play a major role in the activism, thus erasing the important communities impacted by violence and oppression. Throughout the video, segments of Eisenstein’s ¡Que viva México! are interspersed to call attention to the filmic medium itself contrasting historical footage with a highly stylized representation of Mexico pre-Revolution.



“Americans Against Pancho Villa.” Historical Films. Accessed October 20, 2015.

¡Que Viva México! Special Restored Edition. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein. New York: Kino Lorber Films, 2001. DVD.

Cartel Land, directed by Matthew Heinemann. DVD. Los Angeles: Paramount, 2015.

“Massacre at Tlatelolco.” Radio Diaries, YouTube. Accessed October 17, 2015.

Paz, Octavio. The Labyrinth of Solitude. Translated by Lysander Kemp, Yara Milos, and Rachel Phillips Belash. New York: The Grove Press, 1985. 13th edition.

“Zapatistas: Crónica de una Rebelión.” Accessed October 19, 2015.


The Cine-Files, issue 11 (fall 2016)