In this day and age, politics have become a horror show, meaning that corruption and savagery usually comes first, and humanity in dead last. We have to deal with it on a everday basis; it tears up apart, and it continues to divide us, sometimes with really dire consequences. Director Felipe Cazals' chilling 1976 masterwork, Canoa: A Shameful Memory, shows us why.
The film depicts, in docu-style, the horrifying event/incident that took place in the village of San Miguel Canoa during the year of 1968, where an innocent group of five university students were attacked and lynched by many of the town's residents. The residents, brainwashed and under the control of a very corrupt and greedy priest, believed the students of being communists and thieves, without taking it to heart that the group just wanted to step foot into Canoa for a simple hiking trip.
In a series of flashbacks before the eventual crimes, we get to know the guys a little better, and the fact that they are just a lively and fun-loving group, makes their fates even more hard to grasp. There is a certain eerie aspect to the film that not only was it based on a true story, but that the attacks happened just eight years before its release. What the made the film such an albeit harrowing, but important watch is the way that Cazals used fourth-wall substance to bring the story to life. He also used experimental methods to bring to light the social commentary and political corruption that continues to not only exist in Mexico, but all over the world, especially in the United States.
The Criterion presentation of the film is immaculate, even when bringing such ugly, but raw material to brand new life. The supplements are very few but fine: a new, but brief introduction by celebrated filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, as he explains why Canoa is one of the most regarded works of Mexican cinema; a wonderful 53-minute conversation between acclaimed filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron and Cazals, where they talk about the film's techniques, impact, and its sheer relevance, among other topics. Lastly, there's the film's trailer, and a new fold-out essay by critic Fernanda Solorzano.
Overall, I was immediately stunned by the viciousness of the film, and hope that it eventually grows into a more well-known masterpiece of cinema verite, bleak social commentary, and harsh manipulation. It's as unbearably close to a horror film as likely one can ever get. It's a real slap in the face, and I mean that in the most sincerest way possible.