“We are not a disease, we are not lepers,” Eufrosina Mendoza proclaims, as the camera focuses on her interacting with people on the streets. Mendoza knows how her people live.
Directed by Luciana Kaplan, Eufrosina’s Revolution is a compelling documentary tracing the socio-political journey of Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza, a young indigenous Mexican woman bent on proving herself in the realm of politics.
The 90-minute rundown features Mendoza as a down-to-earth, humane person. Mendoza is there to stick with her people, to her customs, to her traditions. The entire affair started when Mendoza was denied participation in the municipal elections of her hometown in Santa Maria Quiegolani, because she is a woman.
“In the middle of the assembly, some citizens came over to me and said in Zapotec that my ballots had been annulled,” says Mendoza, sitting in her garden.
So Mendoza pulled up her sleeves and began the arduous task of convincing the government that a woman could take over.
“I want to see the women voting,” says Mendoza as the camera locks in on indigenous Mexican women fanning their children or making tortillas over a small fire.
The documentary is special in its subtle tonalities and lack of overt commentaries. Without explicit narration, the camera showcases poverty and injustice. For example, we see a woman looking quizzically at a poster titled “el voto es libre y secreto” (votes are free and confidential), or a small boy looking far into the distance, over the misty emerald green hills.
At other times, moments are fiery. People get annoyed, frustrated, and often you see people questioning Eufrosina’s position. At a municipal meeting, a woman dressed in red exclaims: “I do my part and I am working myself to death!”
Mendoza is a politician, however — and a good one. Her catchphrase “this is not for Eufrosina, this is for the indigenous communities,” strikes a visible chord among her fellow citizens. One elderly fan describes Mendoza as a force of character.
“She is not spreading hatred. She just says let it be, let it be,” says the woman, clutching her hands in a darkened kitchen.
The most endearing part of Mendoza is her honesty and transparency. When the Mexican government promised to build a bridge for her municipality but failed to do so, Mendoza gathered a group of builders and began the job herself. “The bastards!” she cries triumphantly as work begins. Or, sitting at her office, a run-down little room, she says candidly: “The reality that governments don’t help really pisses me off.”
Indeed, Mendoza is quite cynical towards the government.
“You go to a government office, and they stare at you because you don’t wear a suit and shoes,” she says.
As viewers, we are confused: who are the ‘bad’ guys here? Should we consider the Mexican government some sort of ‘evil’? Is the documentary giving us a balanced, nuanced point of view, or is the filmmaker paying too much tribute to Mendoza?
Whatever the conclusion, the fact remains that the documentary is brilliant in its still shots, including beautiful portraits of saddened women, boys playing in the dirt and men crossing a square.
There is a happy ending to this story. In November 2010, Mendoza became the first indigenous woman politician in Oaxacan politics, taking on the position of deputy of the PAN (National Action Party). In December of the same year, Mendoza was appointed coordinator of indigenous affairs of the National Executive Committee of the PAN. Let’s not forget that Mendoza is also behind the Quiego Foundation, which promotes gender equality in the region of Oaxaca.
Shrewd politician or wonderful activist, here’s to you, Eufrosina.
Eufrosina’s Revolution premieres in Quebec as part of Cinema Politica on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the D.B. Clarke Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve W. Director Luciana Kaplan will be in attendance. Presented in collaboration with Ambulante.