Synopsis by Mark Deming
While Mexico's indigenous peoples have been struggling for years to gain political representation and economic justice, their battles came to a head on January 1, 1994, when a militant political faction, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (or EZLN), led by a mysterious man known only as Subcommandante Marcos, led a massive raid that took control of five villages and 500 ranches in Mexico. The EZLN's actions were in protest of the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which (among other things) cleared the way for agricultural imports that effectively destroyed the livelihood of Mexico's poorest citizens. Since then, the Mexican government has ruthlessly hunted down the EZLN and their leadership, though officials have denied the existence of the Peace and Justice Party, the paramilitary group established to wipe out the EZLN. For A Place Called Chiapas, Canadian documentarian Nettie Wild spent nine months in Chiapas, Mexico, one of the nation's poorest regions and a stronghold of the EZLN, following the activities of both the EZLN rebels and the Peace and Justice party, and scoring a rare on-camera interview with Marcos (who prefers to communicate using the more anonymous and widely circulated medium of the Internet). A Place Called Chiapas won the prize for Best Documentary at the 1998 Los Angeles International Film Festival.
activism, guerrilla, Mexico, militant, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), paramilitary