The General is a documentary about Plutarco Elías Calles, the former President and revolutionary general. But in watching it you will not learn much about the man. Instead, what you learn is fleeting, brief, like the memories of his daughter whose voice describe what he and Mexico were like after the Revolution. The daughter’s memories and the bits of history that fill out his story are fragments of a larger story: the failure of the Revolution to live up to its promises.
The General is Calles’ great grand daughter’s attempt to discover who Calles was and what his legacy was. She looks not only at the historical sources, newspapers, her grandmother’s recorded memoirs, but the lives of the Mexicans in Mexico City. Did the brutality of his regime change anything? Did the Revolution itself change anything? The verdict is no. With 500,000 street vendors in Mexico City 80 years after his presidency, it is obvious what ever he left Mexico it didn’t work. The interviews with the people of Mexico City all come to one conclusion: nothing has changed and the rich still get away with everything while the poor still suffer.
The General is a must for anyone who is interested in Mexico. Although it isn’t a traditional history of Calles, the interweaving of history, memory and documentary makes for a good film.