A “mockumentary” produced by a non-partisan organization in Mexico called “Nuestro México del Futuro,” or “Our Future Mexico,” has caused a political storm in the lead-up to Mexico’s presidential campaign.
The four-minute video — which has gone viral through social media – uses children as actors to portray Mexico as a dystopia, challenging Mexico’s political parties on what they plan to do for the future of the country.
It has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube, and almost 11 million on the producers’ website.
But the uproar over the video in Mexico is not so much about the subject matter – Mexicans are used to seeing just about every violent action movie. Rather, the video raises the question of the proper use of children in political campaigns, and the use of minors to portray graphic violence.
Children are portrayed as living in a city where the air is so filthy the public is required to wear masks, where corrupt cops shakedown criminals, where kidnapping is a common source of employment, where business can only be conducted in a corrupt manner, and where the nation is engulfed in drug trafficking violence.
While some Mexicans see this as a “wake up call” to the nation’s problems, others are outraged at what they see as the manipulation of children in an irresponsible way that constitutes what they say could be a form of child abuse.
Mexicans understand that the vision is an exaggerated one – Mexico City’s quality of air is better than that of Los Angeles, and the country has made significant strides in addressing environmental issues; despite more than 50,000 deaths since 2006 attributed to the war on drugs, the murder rate in most Mexican states remains far lower than it is in Washington, D.C. (Mexico’s homicide rate is also lower than Brazil’s); and half the nations in the world are characterized by more corrupt bureaucracies than Mexico’s according to a Forbes magazine report.
The video ends with a young girl challenging the four major presidential candidates on what they plan to do about Mexico, a nation that she says “has hit bottom.”
In a country where four presidential candidates can travel the country freely, safely and where citizens can attend rallies and public gatherings without fear, that’s hardly reaching bottom. Mexicans, the majority of whom now are middle class, are not destitute. And an electorate that fully expects to choose new leaders – from president to congressmen and congresswomen, from governors to mayors – without fear of a military or drug-cartel “take-over” is not quite a dystopia.
Meanwhile, U.S. media coverage of the controversial video seems to reflect an American public that doesn’t understand Mexico very well, or the role social media is playing in Mexico’s strengthening democracy.
Consider the way American media are translating the title alone: “Discomforting Kids.”
In fact, “Niños Incómodos” translates as “Inconvenient Children” and not “Discomforting Kids.” The word “Incómodos” is a send-up to Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth,” which was translated into Spanish as “Una Verdad Incómoda.”
The Mexican producers are referencing Al Gore’s social activist approach to political commentary. What the American press sees as “discomforting kids,” Mexicans see as an epiphany: Presenting the worst of Mexico, compressed into four minutes, acted out by children and delivered online with a challenging reference to an American-style of in-your-face social activism.
Right out of the gate, the U.S. media seems to have missed the socioeconomic reference intended by the filmmakers.
It is this political reference – to using children in a political discussion – that is creating controversy in Mexican social media.
The Internet being what it is, however, now these Inconvenient Children have gone viral; there’s no stopping them now.