El General

Directed by Natalia Almada

83 minutes / Color/B&W
Spanish / English subtitles
Release: 2009
Copyright: 2009

Included on 5-disc box set Personal and Political: The Films of Natalia Almada.

Past and present collide in this extraordinarily well crafted documentary when filmmaker Natalia Almada (ALL WATER HAS A PERFECT MEMORY), winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s US Directing Award for documentary, brings to life audio recordings she inherited from her grandmother. These recordings feature Alicia Calles’ reminiscences about her own father—Natalia’s great-grandfather—General Plutarco Elías Calles, a revolutionary general who became president of Mexico in 1924. In his time, Calles was called “El Bolshevique” and “El Jefe Máximo”, or “the foremost chief”. Today, he remains one of Mexico’s most controversial figures, illustrating both the idealism and injustices of the country’s history.

Through Alicia’s voice, this visually stunning, stylistically innovative film moves between the conflicting memories of a daughter grappling with her remembrances of her father and his violent public legacy. It draws exceptional strength from meticulously edited audio, haunting photographs, archival newsreels, and old Hollywood films, combined with an original evocative soundtrack, sweeping footage of modern-day Mexico City, and interviews with today’s working poor. EL GENERAL is a poetic and cinematic exploration of historical judgment, and a complex, arresting portrait of a family and country living under the shadows of the past.

“Highly Recommended...The film should be required viewing for courses in Mexican and Latin American Studies and would also support curriculum in history, sociology, and political science.” —Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)

“Brilliant…brutally honest yet compassionate portrait of [Almada’s] family, her country, and her people, from the leaders who have promised the world to the peasants who have suffered for it.” —Josh Rosenblatt, The Austin Chronicle

“An extraordinarily courageous way to delve into the origins from which you come.” —Paper Magazine

“A moving statement on memory and legacy.” —The Seattle Times

“Natalia Almada paints an intimate portrait of Mexico.” —The Carpetbagger, NYTimes.com

“A hypnotic and deeply compassionate portrait of the Mexican people and the forces that have shaped their country.” —Cara Mertes, SUNfiltered

“The experimental structure, ethereal cinematography and beautiful original score create a vibrant portrait of fractured personal, historical and national memories.” —Roya Rastegar, ColorLines

Beautifully detailed and captivating.” —Seattle Film Festival

“A beautiful lyrical evocation of Mexican history during the times of the revolution, as juxtaposed with events of more recent years.” —Juan Flores, New York University

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A film by Natalia Almada

Select Accolades

  • Audience Award, Best Documentary Feature, Cine Las Americas 2009
  • Directing Award, US Documentary, Sundance Film Festival 2009
  • Santiago Festival International de Cine (SANFIC) 2009
  • Los Angeles International Film Festival 2009
  • DOK Leipzig 2009


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