Sergei Eisenstein shot ¡Que viva México! in Mexico in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression. The courageous financiers of this project were the American writer Upton Sinclair, his wife Mary Craig and a small group of their friends. They had great difficulties in keeping the production going; the economic crisis forced Sinclair to call a halt to it in early 1932. At the same time Josef Stalin insisted on Eisenstein's return to the Soviet Union. Filming stopped with most of the work completed; only one episode could not be filmed.
Back in Moscow Eisenstein was blacklisted as a political renegade and as Trotskyite. Preventing the director from finishing his Mexican film was Stalin's punishment. Sinclair tried several times in vain to transfer the film footage to Russia, but the Soviet Film Industry was instructed not to import the film. In addition Eisenstein was left without film commissions for several years and started teaching at the State Film School. The Stalinist propaganda, which heaped all the blame on Upton Sinclair for the tragic end of ¡Que viva México!, prevailed.
Many film-historians are convinced that ¡Que viva México! might have been Eisenstein's greatest film. ¡Que viva México! stood at the crossroads of the director’s artistic development and marks a crucial point in the evolution of the art of cinema.