On Thursday, the mayor of Mexico City Miguel Angel Mancera said that the filming of the opening scene of the upcoming James Bond movie Spectre will give great global publicity to the Mexican capital. He added that the city has no economic stake in the film, but that it was supplying locations, guaranteeing safety, and helping production with logistics such as rerouting traffic. In the past two years over 53 million international tourists visited Mexico City, and it’s a mark of pride that the city was chosen over New York and Singapore as the filming location.
Reports emerged earlier this week that Mexican officials offered the producers of Spectre a total of $20 million in incentives to film in Mexico — oh, and meet certain script requirements. The website Tax Analysts broke the news by sifting through emails leaked from Sony Pictures Entertainment after the company was hacked by North Korea in December. Prompted by concerns about Mexico’s image abroad, the conditions included that the villain could not be Mexican, and that Mexico City be portrayed flatteringly with aerial shots prioritizing zones with modern buildings. Some subtle replacements were agreed upon as well, according to Fox News Latino : a Mexican governor who is the target of an assassination needed to be replaced with an international leader instead, and a scene showing Mexican police had to be replaced with a more ambiguous “special police force.”
The changes were not just downplaying negatives, they also show off some of Mexico’s best. A Mexican actress will be the Bond girl, and the opening sequence will take place during el día de los muertos (the Day of the Dead), a uniquely Mexican holiday that honors family ancestors with candles and elaborate decorations.
Sony Pictures and MGM Studios are facing a $250 million price tag for Spectre, substantially larger than the $200 million budget for each of the last two Bond films, so they were eager to agree to the changes in order to cut costs. Note that there is nothing illegal about this, as other productions have made similar arrangements. “This is absolutely no different than Michael Bay making the American military look good in order to get authentic props and vehicles for a Transformers sequel,” or “the makers of Iron Man 3 shooting specific scenes with Chinese actors specifically to theoretically increase the film’s box office muscle in China,” notes Scott Mendelson of Forbes.
Even without paying for selectively positive cinematography, Mexico City is becoming safer in real, measurable terms. Mayor Mancera announced on Friday that during his administration, extortion in the capital had fallen by 40%. 111 kidnapping gangs have been disbanded under his watch, and of the 129 investigations launched into kidnapping incidents, over 90% have been successful in liberating the victims. (Currently, a mind-blowing 40,000 people in Mexico City are charged with or serving time for kidnapping and extortion.) In some respects, the capital is actually safer than several American cities. Its murder rate per 100,000 people, 22, is far below Detroit’s 54.58, and more comparable to Philadelphia’s 21.5.
Spectre may open people’s eyes to Mexico City’s world-renowned history, culture, cuisine, and tourism potential, but the improving facts on the ground may get them to actually visit.