This claustrophobic and shocking drama deals with one of the most horrific events in modern Mexican history, the massacre in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City a few days before the start of the 1968 Olympic Games. Perhaps the most important Mexican filmmaker of his generation, Jorge Fons, decided to tell this tragedy from the perspective of a middle-class family that lives in a building right next to the square where the Mexican army killed hundreds of unarmed protesters, mostly young people and students. This massacre was the culmination of something called the Mexican Dirty War, during which the Mexican government, backed by the US, waged war against Marxist-leaning students and various guerilla groups.
On October 2, 1968, tens of thousands of students gathered in the central square of Mexico City to peacefully protest against the government, dissatisfied with the huge amount of money being spent on organizing the Olympic Games, while most people live in poverty. However, the protesters did not know that the army, the police and various beating squads had surrounded the square and at one point they started shooting at the defenseless people. There are still dubious figures on how many people were killed and estimates range from the 44 she estimated CIA and up to almost 400 as claimed by eyewitnesses. Two members of the family that we meet during the family breakfast in the opening scenes will also go to the protest. Grandpa Roque (Jorge Fegan) is a retired soldier who once participated in the Mexican revolution, and he still has full confidence in the state apparatus, believing that the youth have unrealistic demands.
Father Humberto (Hector Bonilla) is a civil servant, mother Alicia (Maria Rojo) is a housewife, and the sons, students Jorge (Demian Bichir) and Sergio (Bruno Bichir), argue with their father and dream of revolution. And it’s a typical family dispute between realistic conservative parents and idealistic revolutionary youth who dream of a better and fairer world, and of course Jorge and Sergio will go to the protest that afternoon. There are also two younger children who follow what is happening, and although the parents are not too thrilled that their sons are going to the protest because they are aware that the situation is electrified, no one can even in their worst dreams imagine what could happen.
Fons decided for a realistic and minimalist approach and the action of the entire film takes place in this family’s apartment, which will soon turn into a refuge for several wounded and frightened students. When the shooting starts, Jorge and Sergio will take shelter in their family’s apartment with several other protesters, and members of the secret services, various thugs, assisted by the regular army, will soon start combing the apartments in search of students who may have hidden somewhere nearby. Although the plot develops slowly and Fons and the screenwriting duo Guadalupe Ortes – Xavier Robles slowly develop the dynamics of the family relationship without directly touching the outside world, but everything that happens is learned exclusively from the dialogue of the characters, it was “Rojo Amanecer” or “Red Dawn “an extremely shocking and poignant film.
It is a tragic story that Fons filmed with a minimal budget and under modest conditions, knowing that it would be difficult to find financial support from a major studio due to the sensitive subject matter. Although more than two decades had passed since the massacre at Tlatelol at the time the film was shot, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which was in power continuously from 1929 to 2000, was still in power then, and the event is still a taboo topic that wasn’t really talked about. The government tried to censor the film and Fons really had to cut some scenes, and “Red Dawn” arrived a year late. This shocking and gruesome drama about the state and the abuse of power won 11 national Ariel awards for film art, among them the award for film of the year.