In the documentary “Fraude: México 2006,” filmmaker Luis Mandoki captures the controversial presidential election, which took place two years ago between Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Felipe Calderón. It has been argued that since the election, evidence has proven that Obrador, a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, not Calderon, was the real winner of the race. Mandoki documents this with the help of Mexican citizens who he calls on to shoot footage of their experiences at the polling places during the accusations of fraud, including illegal campaigning and federal corruption.
During a phone interview with me, Mandoki, best known for films like “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Angel Eyes,” describes his intentions for making “Fraude” and why he thinks it’s a perfect time for a political documentary like this to reach an American audience.
You met Andrés Obrador three years ago. What was your first impression of him?
I knew him only from what the media said. He was very much attacked. When I met him, he was a completely different human being. He was very sensitive, very human and completely honest. I was amazed at how reality can be distorted by the media.
Some of your critics would argue that you made “Fraude” only because you are an Obrador supporter and are angry at the outcome of the election. What would you say to those people?
That’s a distortion. Basically, I did this documentary not as a supporter of López Obrador. He is the one that narrates the documentary because all the other protagonists of the story would not talk or give me an interview for the film. I approached Calderón and others and nobody would do it. Calderón said the only way he would do it is if he could make the final cut of the documentary, which I would never do for him or Obrador or anybody. If the election were to happen the other way around – if Felipe Calderón would have actually won [the presidential race] and fraud was committed against him – I would have done the same documentary. Whether I agree or not with Calderón, [the most important thing] is democracy.
What did you anticipate when you called on Mexican citizens to grab their cameras and become part of your filmmaking process?
At the time when I called for this, I didn’t know that the election was so close. I just thought the process of a recount was historic and should be shot because it never happened. I never expected so much cynicism by the electoral authorities in México.
Do you think a film like “Fraude” will translate well to a U.S. audience? We’ve had our own election drama in the past, are you hoping Americans can relate?
Yes, but more than that, I also care very much about the U.S. The coming election in November is very important. This documentary shows how fragile democracy is. I think it is important to show all the things that can happen during an election and explain how important it is to vote.
With all the corruption in the government today, do you think democracy is realistic or is it something countries – even ones like the U.S. – will never actually reach?
I think democracy is a real thing, but I think it’s always threatened. But it has to be perfected so certain things don’t happen. What concerns me about current elections is the electronic voting system. There are no paper trails.
Since “Fraud” is such a controversial film, have you ever been in fear for you life?
No, I haven’t felt scared at all.