El Atentado (The Attempt Dossier) (2010) 






Director:    Jorge Fons. 

Starring:     Daniel Giménez Cacho (Federico Gamboa), José María Yazpik (Arnulfo Arroyo), Julio Bracho (Eduardo Velazquez), Irene Azuela (Cordelia Godoy), Arturo Beristáin (Porfiirio Díaz), Salvador Sánchez (Antonio Villavicencio), José María de Tavira (Álvaro Mateos), María Rojo (Madre de Arroyo), Mario Zaragoza (Genovevo), Angélica Aragón (Tía Avelina), Dolores Heredia (Bonifacia).

political corruption in the Porfirio Diaz government



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

An actor dresses up like the president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz. The audience chases the fellow off the stage after a short presentation.

One man Antonio Villavicencio is getting another man, Fito (Arnulfo Arroyo), drunk so the man will assassinate Diaz. The boss, Eduardo Velasquez, sits at another table and watches the proceedings. The spokesman gives the would-be assassin a knife and tells the drunken fellow to put it away. After the drunken man leaves the bar, the boss tells the spokesman that the fellow is too drunk to kill anyone. Villavicencio replies: "Hatred is stronger than alcohol."

The President of Mexico has his photo taken with part of his staff.

The potential assassin Fito comes into the bar drunk. He keeps shouting: "September 27, 1821!" He says they should celebrate the end of the revolution, not the start. Villavicencio tells the man it's time to go.

The drunk starts walking through the streets. He sees the president in his carriage riding down the street.  The carriage stops and Porfirio gets out of his carriage. As he walks to a building, the drunk takes out his knife, runs at Porfirio and sticks the knife in the man's heart. He then shouts: "Death to the Dictator!"

Well, that was the assassin's daydream. So how did the real assassination attempt occur? The assassin picks up a stone and hits the general in the head three times. The people clap for the assassin. Another daydream.

But what really happened? The drunk knocks off the hat of the president and then the Minister of the Interior uses his walking cane to knock the drunk to the ground. The man sent to watch the assassin now tries to kill the assassin to keep him from talking. Others in the crowd grab that man and the assassin. The president tells everyone not to hurt the would-be-assassin. So the two men are arrested.

A man named Federico has oral sex with a woman name Cordelia, which gives her great pleasure. The man gets out of the coach to go to work. He sits at his desk. A reporter named Alvaro comes running in to say that someone tried to kill President Diaz! The man jumps up from his chair and rushes into the next room to tell his boss what happened. Mr. Chancellor is extremely upset about this and rushes to hear more from the reporter. The reporter says that the would-be assassin must be an anarchist.

The actors now put on a skit that mocks the ineptitude of the assassin. The assassin keeps trying and missing in his attempts to knock the hat off the president. The people roar with laughter at the skit.

Arnulfo Arroyo is questioned by Col. Guerrero. He says he is from Tacubaya. After that, Arnulfo says he won't talk about any more subjects with the authorities.

Federico learns that the would-be assassin is Arnulfo Arroyo. Federico knows that name.

Flashback. Federico tries to walk around Arnulfo, but Arnulfo sees him and stops him for a talk. Arnulfo asks if Federico has heard from Cordelia? Federico just wants to get away from the man. Arnulfo asks if he embarrasses Federico? Federico says he pities Arnulfo, who replies that at least he is not just some ass-kisser.

Back to the present. Alvaro tells Federico that he was covering the speech on orders from Reyes Spindoloa. The president returns to the palace. He sends for Guerrero. The colonel asks what does the president want him to do with this would-be assassin? The president makes it clear that he does not want any advice from the colonel, so the colonel leaves.

Flashback. Arnulfo and his girlfriend run to get aboard the train. Once on board, they run into Federico and another man, named Eduardo Velazquez, Arnulfo's college mate. Arnulfo introduces his girl, Hortencia Gomez, to the others. Federico introduces his girl Cordelia Godoy the Iglesias widow. Then Eduardo introduces his girlfriend Maria Sagaseta.

The news of the day is that Spain's Primer Minister was murdered. Federico complains about the anarchists.

At a picnic with the six people, Federico says last year the anarchists put a bomb in a Barcelona procession. Cordelia asks Eduardo if the anarchists will become a force to reckon with in Mexico? He says no way because in Mexico is all order and progress. Arnulfo replies: "Go to the courthouses and you'll see differently. You wouldn't believe what goes on there."

On the way back from the picnic, the train stops. Since it will be awhile, the passengers get off the train. The women are upset by seeing a car load of very smelly prisoners. Eduardo says these men are rebellious Indians from Sonora. These fellows want to be independent of Mexico.

Back on the train Arnulfo sings an anti-Dizaz song with lyrics like: "The President can go straight to hell." Eduardo gets angry and tosses Arunlfo's guitar out of one of the train windows. Hortencia retrieves the guitar.

Back to the present. Under the control of the police chief, a bunch of men are guarding Arnulfo who is wearing a straight jacket and is tied to a chair. A boss man comes along and sends all of the guards away except one, named Antonio Milanes. This guard knows Fito (Arnulfo). The guard gives him some water and takes off some of his ropes. He also gives Fito a puff from his cigarette. He then asks Fito why did he attack President Porfirio?

A bunch of vigilantes with their faces covered come into the train car shouting Long Live Porfirio Diaz and knock out Antonio Milanes. One of the men knifes Arnulfo. Then another man knifes him. A third man knifes him in the back and then in the front. Now the whole group of men knife Arnulfo.

The newspapers carry the story of a terrorist having been killed, stabbed to death.

Cordelia asks Eduardo what happened? She shows himthe headline in the paper saying that Arroyo was lynched receiving justice by the people. Changing the subject, he shows her a wedding dress he brought from Paris. He says soon they will be married.

Arroyo's mother comes to see his body in the morgue. There are knife wounds all over his chest and back.

Flashback. At an outdoor cafe Arroyo plays his anti-Diaz song.

Back to the present. Mrs. Arroyo cries over the death of her son. She says she would like each oft he murderers to have their throats slit.

Federico comes into the room of Cordelia and gives her a passionate kiss. But her mind is on what happened to Arroyo. She now confesses that when Federico left Mexico she "cared for Fito". But, she says, she never loved him. Federico asks why did Fito attack the president?

Flashback. Fito rides his bicycle around a courtyard providing Cordelia and her blind friend have a good laugh. They go inside their house. Fito comes up and Cordelia and him start smooching a little. She gives him a gold watch.

Back to the present. Cordelia says she doesn't know why Fito attacked the president. She has a question for Federico? How could this have happened while Eduardo is the Chief of Police? Do you believe he is involved in this?

Eduardo is being replaced with a new Chief of Police, Mr. Octaviano Liceaga. Eduardo is to be arrested and taken to the country prison.

Federico asks reporter Alvares how did he get the assignment on Fito? He wants to know if Fito told the reporter anything of value. Alvarez asks if Federico is writing a novel? They both laugh.

Eduardo is put in prison but gets the best cell in the prison.

The actors put on another skit, where it is said that the police were actually the ones who killed Fito.

Flashback. The man who was to kill Fito is asked by his bosses why did he fail in his job? He answers: "It couldn't be done. I couldn't, boss. . . . The policemen wouldn't let me work."

Eduardo and his henchman, the spokesman, come to the colonel to pick up the detainee Fito. He says since Fito is no military man, he is supposed to be tried by civilian authorities. The colonel says he's happy to turn over the detainee because it means less trouble for him.

Under the care of the Chief of Police, Fito is placed in the straight jacket and tied to a chair. Eduardo comes to speak with Fito. He says he will get Fito a steak. He also asks Fito what is he to do with him?

Eduardo comes into a cabinet meeting led by the president. Because the Minister of the Interior is not at the meeting, the president asks Eduardo if he would like to be the new Minister of the Interior? Eduardo becomes humble and says he personally owes so much to the present Minister of the Interior.

The presidents asks Eduardo why has he taken charge over the detainee when that surely is a job for the judges themselves? He then makes it clear that he wants Eduardo to take the detainee to the appropriate courthouse very soon.

Leaving the meeting Eduardo runs into the present Minister of the Interior, who is furious with Eduardo. He demands to know where the hell has Eduardo been lately? He has been looking all over for him.

The Minister tells Eduardo that simply because Eduardo couldn't come out of this affair like some hero, don't make a mess of things for him. Eduardo tells the Minister that this whole thing was his idea. The Minister snarls that if Eduardo ever says that again, he will cut off Eduardo's balls.

The women are leading a strike. The bosses want the military brought in to get rid of the women. When the police and others arrive, the women start running for the hills. The police start beating the women with their batons. One officer knocks out a woman with a baton and Fito grabs a rock and knocks out the officer with it. He picks up the woman off the ground, but he in turn is hit by a baton and is knocked out.

Eduardo plots out the murder of Fito. They discuss the weapons to use and who will be chosen as the assassins?

Eduardo's servant buys something at Eduardo's request. When he brings it to Eduardo, he tells the servant to give it to Villavicencio.

The assassins arrive by wagon. They are ready and willing to start the party. Candido the servant arrives and gives the purchased items to Villavicencio. The purchased items are knives.

Villavicencio talks to the jefe again and gets his final instructions. The assassins do their job and come out celebrating by firing their revolvers and yelling Long live Porfirio Diaz. Eduardo gives the order to close the doors to cut off any escape, but this order is carried out after all the assassins run through the gate.

The reporter quickly writes about the story and gets it to the presses.

Back to the present. Porfirio now wants the Chief of Police to be arrested and imprisoned. He says the Inspector made a fool of him. The present Minister of the Interior tries to speak up for Eduardo, but the president cuts him off.

Alvaro's boss tells him that he doesn't see the big picture. He must remember: "Silence is golden." He must learn to know when to talk and when to shut up.

Cordelia comes to see Eduardo. He tells an employee to send her away, but add that she will soon get a letter from him. Cordelia is shocked by his response and wonders what it all means.

Cordelia talks with Federico about her problems with Eduardo. He tells her that Eduardo is protected by the Minister of the Interior. Federico says that it's best that they split up until Eduardo is free. Cordelia doesn't like the idea. They have sex. (brief nudity)  After sex Cordelia is still feeling a bit abandoned.

Federico's boss says it looks like Eduardo is going to be spending a lot of time in prison.

In a bordello Federico has lunch with reporter Alvaro, who says that his boss and the Minister of the Interior have become close allies and he is thinking about seeking employment elsewhere.

The police arrest Antonio Villavicencio and his henchmen.

Eduardo shoots himself in the head with his derringer. The actors make a funny skit about Eduardo's suicide, implying someone murdered him rather than he committed suicide. A funeral is held for Eduardo. The Minister of the Interior does not attend the ceremony.

The Minister of the Interior comes to talk to the president. The president says that the Minister and his wife are being exiled to Finland. After the man leaves, the president starts crying.

Cordelia tells Federico that she is moving to Queretaro. He can marry his girlfriend. Federico tries to kiss Cordelia goodbye, but she pulls away from him.

The police are coming for Horetencia who was active in the women's strike. The women tell her to run away quickly.

Alvaro is leaving his job. He says goodbye to his boss, Rafael.

Cordelia and her blind friend get on a train for Queretaro. The police grab Arroyo's mother and arrest her along with her daughter. As the train pulls out Cordelia sees Federico on the platform looking at her. A tear runs down her cheek.


Good film about the love relationships of three men and three women set during the years of the Porfirio Diaz presidency of Mexico.  The relationships are deeply affected by the growing corruption in the Diaz regime.  One of the men become recruited as a potential assassin of Diaz and this really changes the lives of all three of the men and the women too.  The fever of revolt against the Diaz regime (second term 1884-1911) led to the oncoming Mexican Revolution (1910-1920)  for a fairer distribution of wealth in the country.    The actors I enjoyed most were José María Yazpik (as Arnulfo Arroyo) and Irene Azuela (as Cordelia Godoy).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

"Diaz was participating in ceremonies in connection with Mexico's Independence Day celebration 16 September 1897 when a man from the crowd attacked him.  Improbably, the assailant used a rock as a weapon, striking the president on the back of his neck.  Diaz was unharmed, but the incident caused a major scandal when the would-be assassin was himself killed while in police custody.  Public opinion linked the assassination attempt to a conspiracy involving two members of Diaz's cabinet, and the Mexico City police chief confessed to ordering the murder of the assailant and later committed suicide."

"Assassanations".  Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and history by Don M. Coerver, Suzanne B. Pasztor and Robert M. Buffington. 2004. 




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