1930s Mexico, Isamu Noguchi, and Sergei Eisenstein’s Unfinished Mexican Film
In 1930, Russian avant-garde film director Sergei Eisenstein traveled to Mexico to start a film project known as ¡Que viva México!—but production was eventually abandoned and the film was never finished. We are showing astonishing camera footage from this unfinished project, and a short film made by editing the available footage, as part of M+ Screenings: In the World, Of the World on 12–14 April. It is shown in the context of the Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint exhibition, drawing connections to Isamu Noguchi’s participation in the 1930s Mexican art scene in which Eisenstein’s film was shot.
Upon Charlie Chaplin’s recommendation, Sergei Eisenstein connected with writer Upton Sinclair, who helped fund the project. Eisenstein shot dozens of hours of footage for what was planned to be a multi-chapter film about the history of Mexico. Funds from the Mexican Film Trust—a production company established by Sinclair, his wife, and other investors—were soon exhausted, and Eisenstein’s chances of finishing the film himself further diminished as his re-entry visa to the United States expired and he was unable to secure an extension to his permission to remain away from the Soviet Union. Much of the footage was brought back to the U.S. by the producers, and Eisenstein’s film remained incomplete.
Below, Professor Natascha Drubek writes about the film and Eisenstein’s legacy, providing context for one of the most famous unfinished film projects in cinema history.