Director Luis Mandoki’s documentary, Fraude, México 2006, about the 2006 presidential election in Mexico, was a hit in that country, selling a reported 26,200 tickets on its first day in theaters, according to Mexican newspaper La Jornada. The acclaimed filmmaker, 53, spoke exclusively with us about the project and the controversy it’s stirring up in his native country.
Mandoki, like millions of Mexican citizens in 2006, witnessed one of the most complicated presidential elections in the country’s modern history: vote counts too close to call, protests and the overall controversy between Felipe Calderón and Andrés Manuel López Obrador. It was then that the director, who has a 17-year career under his belt, decided to move forward with his project, using more than 3,000 hours of recorded material from the video cameras of Mexican citizens. “I didn’t have money for the project, but in the voters’ films there had to be proof,” Mandoki explained.
The filmmaker had requested via internet that citizens in every district try to capture the happenings of election day on the film. He figured the people might be able to find “something interesting,” but he never expected such an enormous response. The tapes were the foundation for the documentary, which recently premiered in Mexico in more than 200 movie theaters.
“This movie isn’t just for people who think there was fraud, or for those who aren’t sure, or for those who think there wasn’t fraud. It’s for everyone. I made this movie as an offering to everyone, for them to see it. I don’t ask that they think one way or the other, I’m just inviting them to see it, reflect and say if it made them see something, or they might say ‘this is terrible’ and reject it, or that they love it,” the director explained. “I believe in democracy, and that’s democracy; I believe in tolerance, and that’s tolerance; I believe in diversity, and that’s diversity. We’re going to stop emphasizing the huge class segregation and hate that we have now in our country. It’s important to be informed, and from there each person can decision as he or she likes.”
Mandoki assures that he’s not affiliated with either of the parties, and that if there had been fraud against the current president, Felipe Calderón, he would have created the same documentary. “I might not agree with Calderón’s politics, but I believe more in democracies and ideologies,” he said.
Because of the massive amount of film sent to him by everyday citizens, Mandoki was unable to finish the documentary by July 2, as was originally scheduled. “I was given historical gems and I had to give them shape, because they couldn’t be forgotten,” expressed the Oscar-nominated director of Gaby: una historia verdadera.
He spent more than a year creating the film, a documentary that “doesn’t try to convince anyone, or try to prove anything; it simply shows facts, what was sent to me, what I saw, what the people said; it gives a voice to those who tried to speak. I arrived at a crucial moment, because I was aggressively trying to interview the main characters of the story, but they said no.”
With some voices missing, Mandoki was faced with the dilemma of whether or not he should finish the project. “After a few days of reflection and discussion with the team, we decided that we weren’t going to let them determine whether or not we made the movie,” the filmmaker explained.
Once the project was underway, executives from Warners Bros. became interested. They thought it was a sure success, but in the end, the U.S. company pulled out of the deal for fear that they’d make enemies with Bernando Gómez of the network Televisa. Mandoki moved forward, though, and found other means of distributing the important documentary.