Sundance Exclusive Review: Vivos

Year: 2020
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Director: Weiwei Ai

By Rosa Parra

“Vivos” is a documentary that follows the families of 43 students who forcibly disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. On the night of September 26, 2014, a bus full of students, from Ayotzinapa, was intercepted and confronted by the police. Many were killed at the scene, others were severely injured, and 43 students utterly disappeared. The government claims that these students were turned in to the local cartel, who murdered all 43 then burned them. They were supposedly burned in a big bonfire where later their “remains” would be found.

Yes, there is a specific reason why I place quotation marks on the word remains. Why would this particular bus be intercepted? You may ask, well, these students are vocal and politically active against the government. Some believe they were purposely blocked to stop future protests by physically getting rid of the protesters themselves and additionally scaring away prospective students who may be thinking of protesting. Others believe that the bus contained drugs that were purposely misdirected to another area for which the cartel had the bus intercepted.

Vivos - Still 1

The documentary begins by following several families as they cope with the idea of having to live with a missing family member. Several years (in the film, it’s 4) after their disappearance, many families refuse to believe that their family member is dead. The film follows a variety of families; those who know their relative is deceased (they were killed in the altercation), another family’s child has been in a coma, and they’re trying to figure out a way to rebuild their house to bring him home. The majority of the families, though, have no answers, and they refuse to believe the deceiving government story they received.

Vivos - Still 5

This documentary starts strong and with great potential to be a compelling and informative movie. As I sat through this film, I was moved and engrossed watching how these families went on their day to day without their family members. Their social activism into finding answers and the unification of these families is short from inspiring. However, halfway through the film journalists, and historians are interviewed, taking me away from the movie. Their analysis of the drug war in Mexico and their own theories about what actually happened that night didn’t help the film. It will then turn into a debate on whether or not there was any truth to the government’s story.

vivos 3

“Vivos” is a documentary that shines a light on the social and political injustices in Mexico. Focusing on government corruption and the manipulation by the drug cartels. This documentary will leave you with an urgency to call your family members and tell them you love them. It’ll also leave you wondering if the government’s priority its the people they supposedly serve or is their self-interest more significant.

I give this film a 7 out of 10


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