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Mexican epic ‘Zapata’ faces criticism

Critics say the film does not depict history accurately. Director Arau says he did not mean for the film to be a historical biography.
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Zapata,” the year’s most anticipated movie in Mexico, already has drawn criticism for failing to accurately depict the country’s famous revolutionary hero.

Writer-director Alfonso Arau faced the Mexican media Tuesday, acknowledging that his epic, whose full title is “Zapata, The Hero’s Dream,” at times strays from historical fact by failing to depict Emiliano Zapata’s violent dark side.

But Arau maintained that he never intended to make a historical biography of the man who emerged as the hero of Mexico’s bloody, chaotic 1910-1917 Revolution.

“This is a mythic fable, totally symbolic,” Arau said at a news conference. “Zapata doesn’t shoot anybody, he doesn’t kill anybody in (the movie) because he’s a mystic hero.”

Distributed by the Mexican company Videocine, it will open in 650 theaters across the country Friday.

“I wasn’t running from the topic of blood in the cinema,” said Arau, who directed 1995’s “A Walk in the Clouds,” and “Like Water for Chocolate” in 1992.

Arau said he spent nearly six years trying to get his film financed and that it’s release was delayed several times because of production snags and other problems. Stories about the director being locked in a Los Angeles editing room, frantically pouring over the film’s final cut, have dominated the Mexican press for several days.

Besides questions about its historical liberties, critics who had yet to see the film attacked “Zapata” because of Arau’s decision to cast noted ranchero singer Alejandro Fernandez in the lead role. Many in Mexico wonder whether a singer with no major acting experience is qualified to fill Zapata’s boots.

Arau defended Fernandez, calling his performance “marvelous.”

Fernandez said he would let the movie’s eventual success speak to his abilities as an actor.