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ReVista harvard review of Latin america

fall 2009/winter 2010

It’s Filerm
In Latin Am

david r ocke fe lle r ce n ter for l ati n am eri can studi es, H arvard un i versi ty
Editor’s Letter

For me, movies are magic. And movie going is an emotional experience or maybe I should say, two types of
emotional experience. I love to go to a film by myself, curl up in the seat and lose myself in the darkness to
the big screen. I also delight in going with friends, passing the popcorn and engaging in the lively debate of
a shared experience afterwards. Both experiences are a form of transformation, whether collective or per-
sonal, even if I’ve seen the film several times before.
I expected a flood of responses to my request for people to write about their favorite film (the short arti-
cles you will find scattered through these pages). So I was surprised when my question seemed to produce
anxiety beyond the fact of one more thing to do in always hectic lives. “Let me think about it,” “But I’m not a
film expert...” “Just one film?” were some of the answers. Was this not such a simple task?
So I decided to try the exercise on myself.
In the process of developing this issue on film, we—myself and my guiding lights Harvard Film Archive
Director Haden Guest and Harvard Romance Languages and Literatures Professor Brad Epps—had decided to
limit the issue to film in Latin America, rather than including film from Spain and Latino films (a good excuse
for another film issue!). That made choosing a lot more difficult.
I reread my own little query to my readers. It included films that make us see Latin America in a different
light, even if they are not Latin American or about Latin America. And I realized that the two most important
films for me in that sense fell into that category. The first was the 1952 Mexican Bus Ride, Subida al Cielo,
directed by Luis Buñuel, a Spanish-born filmmaker. I was surprised just now on researching the film that it is
billed as a comedy, because I remembered it as a tragedy, as a young man on his wedding night who is pre-
vented by Mexico’s rickety buses and accompanying mishaps from reaching his mother’s deathbed.
The other film has everything and nothing to do with Latin America. The 1966 movie Battle of Algiers,
directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, takes place in North Africa and depicts the Algerian War against French colo-
nial rule. I’ve seen the film at least a dozen times, and it helped me understand the wars I covered in Central
America—both the liberation struggles and the counterinsurgency.
But then I began to fret about my two choices. I try to remember all those magical moments, second guess
my decision; my lists grow longer and longer. Indeed, this entire issue of ReVista—not just the personal blurbs
about film—has been an exercise in limitation. We’ve chosen here to focus on five countries: Mexico, Argen-
tina, Brazil, Chile and Cuba. Again, a delightful excuse for another film issue!
This issue has blended perspectives from filmmakers and film-goers, Latin Americans and Latin American-
ists, providing glimpses of film trends past and present. But as I write this letter, I’m reminded of the moment
when one leaves the theatre and the reality of harsh daylight or blaring car horns shatters the mood.
One of the reasons we struggled so hard to limit the scope of this issue was to ensure that we could keep
publishing ReVista this academic year, business as usual. But despite our efforts and your generous dona-
tions, we will only publish twice in 2009-10 because of the current economic situation. We hope this is a tem-
porary measure.
Meanwhile, use the new comment function on the online version of ReVista <http://www.drclas. harvard.
edu/publications> to let ReVista readers know more about the Latin American films that have had an impact
on your life.
See you at the movies!

ReVista h arvard review of Latin am er ica Volume VIII, Number 3

Published by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

DRCLAS: Merilee S. Grindle, Director • Kathy Eckroad, Associate Director Cover photography:
editorial staff: June Carolyn Erlick, Editor in-Chief • Anita Safran, Copy Editor • Clotilde Dedecker, Jeffrey
top, Motorcycle Diaries (2004),
Leopando Publications Interns • 2communiqué/, Design • P & R Publications, Printer
special guest editorial advisors: Haden Guest and Brad Epps photo by Paula Prandini, courtesy
of Focus Features; center,
1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA 02138 Telephone: (617) 495-5428 Facsimile: (617) 496-2802 Cantinflas in Ni sangre ni arena
subscriptions and reader Forum: (1941), photo courtesy of Filmo-
this issue of ReVista is made possible through the generous support of Banco Santander teca UNAM Collection, Mexico;
Copyright © 2009 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. ISSN 1541–1443 bottom, Castro, directed by Alejo
Moguillansky, Argentina, 2009.
first takes

Film in Latin America

An Introduction
By Haden Guest

Latin American cinema has undergone a remarkable transforma- political legacy of the past has not been so much abandoned as
tion since the mid-1990s, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba reinvented in multiple and artistically fascinating ways. During my
and Mexico in particular emerging as vibrant centers for some of interview with legendary Argentine producer Lita Stantic I was
the most innovative and imaginative filmmaking in contemporary intrigued by her reluctance to speak of a political agenda, let
world cinema. A bastion for politically charged counter-cinema alone an unconscious, at work within the nuevo cine argentino.
in the 1960s and 1970s, Latin American filmmaking entered a Stantic’s understanding of the new priorities of the younger gen-
long transitional period during the 1980s that abruptly ended with eration of filmmakers and the more subtle political register of their
the emergence in the 1990s of young and frequently iconoclastic work, offers just one example of how the contemporary cinema
directors such as Alfonso Cuarón, Lucrecia Martel, Walter Salles, requires a different set of critical tools than we were previously
Guillermo del Toro and Pablo Trapero. This new generation of accustomed to for studying Latin American film.
incredibly talented directors has redefined what Latin American At the Harvard Film Archive we have been extraordinarily
cinema means today through a body of work that offers one of fortunate to have hosted such exciting young contemporary Latin
the more exciting topics in recent Film Studies, as testified to by American filmmakers as Lucrecia Martel and Carlos Reygadas as
the fascinating scholarship and criticism offered in this special well as important veterans such as Jorge Furtado, all for extended
film issue of ReVista on which I am pleased and honored to have visits and cinematheque retrospectives. These visits have taken
served as a special editorial advisor, along with Brad Epps. place within the context of a larger project here at the university;
Interest in Latin American cinema has been building for quite we have channeled an energetic focus on building resources
some time at Harvard University, as I discovered when I arrived and interest in Ibero-American cinema at Harvard into an Ibero-
here as Director of the Harvard Film Archive just about three years American film committee which I lead together with Brad Epps,
ago. It is particularly rewarding to include several pieces by up Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Chair of the
and coming scholars and historians of Latin American cinema Committee on Degrees for Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexu-
from Harvard such as Humberto Delgado alongside the work of ality here at Harvard. Many of the authors here in this issue—
long-established and influential observers of Latin American film among them, Humberto Delgado, Daniel Aguirre, Clémence
from the Harvard community such as Nicolau Sevcenko and visit- Jouët-Pastré, and Bruno Carvalho—are members of the committee
ing professor in Romance Languages and Literatures Gonzalo and tireless promoters of film at Harvard.
Aguilar. Together these writers reveal the amazing diversity of At the Archive we have been steadily gathering Ibero-American
contemporary Latin American cinema and the ways in which the films—including a major new collection of Argentine films from the

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1940s-1980s, soon to be available for research and classroom ing on Latin American film. A major symposium is scheduled to
screenings. Our program has worked hard to trace the constel- take place this fall, on “el cine como historia”—Film as History—
lation of Ibero-American filmmakers in active dialogue with one which will bring together a diverse group of academics, filmmak-
another by inviting the likes of the Portuguese director Pedro Costa ers and archivists for a discussion of the cinema’s active role as a
and the two of the brightest stars in Spanish and Catalan cinema socio-political and cultural force and which promises to be one of
today, José Luis Guerín and Albert Serra. The support of DRCLAS the more exciting events of the academic year.
has been invaluable to our efforts and initiatives designed to go So in a sense this issue of ReVista represents not a retrospec-
beyond the traditional pattern of Eurocentric—and specifically tive nor a conclusion, but the beginning of a dialogue.
Franco-Germanic—film studies at Harvard and recognize the
growing and vibrant community of scholars at the university work- Haden Guest is the Director of the Harvard Film Archive.

New Technologies and New Narratives

In Ibero-American Cinema
By Brad Epps

Recent film trends in Latin America and beyond cannot be under- will be “cinema as history; history as cinema,” tentatively sched-
stood without examining new technologies and their impact on uled at Harvard University in November 2009.
new narrative forms. That is why, in November 2008, the Real The aim of the symposia is as simple as it is complex: to bring
Colegio Complutense of Harvard University, together with the Uni- together critics, historians, filmmakers, screenwriters, producers,
versidad Complutense and the Universidad Castilla-La Mancha, actors and others who share an interest in and/or commitment to
sponsored a three-day international symposium in Cuenca and cinematic production in Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the
Madrid, Spain. The fruit of friendly collaboration with colleagues Caribbean in order to interrogate, as openly and dialogically
in Spain, most notably Ignacio Oliva, Fran Zurián, Josetxo Cerdán as possible, the promises and pitfalls of a trans-Atlantic, Ibero-
and Pilar Rodríguez, as well as with colleagues from Cuba American rubric in which Spanish and Portuguese, rather than
(Luciano Castillo), Mexico (Juan Mora Catlett, Elisa Miller), Bra- English or French, would be the primary tongues. Needless to
zil (Denilson Lopes), Argentina (Gonzalo Aguilar, Ana Amado), say, it is somewhat risky, if not indeed illusory, to speak of Ibero-
Chile (Cecilia Barriga), Venezuela (Andrés Duque) and Costa Rica American cinema—or, despite the existence of a number of festi-
(María Lourdes Cortés), the symposium was the first installment in vals, conferences, books, and collaborative efforts like our own,
a still unfolding series of similar ventures on other topics. The next even to speak of Latin American or Iberian cinema—when what

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in fact prevails, still today, is a nationally delimited understanding Of course, Europe is not always simply Europe, for within
of cinematic works or, more generally, audiovisual products, here it, Spanish and Portuguese cinema, or cinema in Spanish and
Mexican, there Brazilian, and over there Spanish, as it were. Portuguese (let alone in Catalan, Galician, and Basque), has
Brazilian film critic and historian Paulo Antonio Paranaguá historically not enjoyed the same appreciation and visibility as
already signaled the problems not with the more ample Ibero-Amer- French, German, Italian, or British cinema and has entered the
ican moniker but with the more established Latin American moniker pantheon of high cinematic art thanks to a handful of filmmakers
in a book published in 2003 by the Fondo de Cultura Económica who, deemed to be “geniuses” of “universal” stature (Luis Buñuel,
de España, Tradición y modernidad en el cine de América Latina who worked on both sides of the Atlantic, is here paradigmatic),
(Tradition and Modernity in Latin American Cinema). In the words of stand as the luminous exceptions to a putative, and rather somber,
Paranaguá: “Latin American cinema does not exist as a platform of general rule. In more than one history of European cinema, as in
production: the space in which virtually all projects are generated is more than one history of European art and literature, Spain and
purely national, at times even local, though there are transnational Portugal are either all but absent or figure only as exceptional or
currents and continental strategies dating from at least the begin- peripheral. In saying this I do not mean to suggest that Spanish
ning of cinematic sound, if not before” (15). These national, even and Portuguese cinema, much less some rather vague Iberian cin-
local spaces, often bundled together in a rather simplistic manner ema, is analogous, without qualification, to Latin American cinema
as “peripheral or dependent cinemas” (the terms are Paranaguá’s) (or even that there is an Iberian or Latin American cinema). Rather,
nonetheless constitute a source of diversity and plurality which is my point is that on both sides of the Atlantic, albeit to undoubtedly
unfortunately often reduced to a merely rhetorical value, as if the rel- different degrees, one encounters a certain weary familiarity with
ative dearth of communication and collaboration could be remedied marginalization—as well as with the more material challenges of
by appealing to some vague, oft-repeated principle of “difference” securing funding for works that rarely have the ready-made box-
which scarcely leaves a mark on the hegemony of the long- office draw of Hollywood blockbusters (or, for that matter, many
standing, quasi-naturalized distinction—or, better yet, opposition— English-language “independent” films), and that rarely have the
between Hollywood commercial and European “high-art” ventures. “ready-made” cultural clout of French, British, Italian, or German
This distinction, so critical to those who take binary formulations productions. Beyond the sense of a shared linguistic culture (Portu-
(commerce/art, Hollywood/Europe, frivolity/seriousness, conven- gal and Brazil, Spain and Spanish-speaking America), other situ-
tion/experimentation, and so on) as a privileged point of departure ations and experiences, profoundly marked by the vagaries of the
for critical analyses in which value judgments are in many respects global market, are also shared, even though problems of marginal-
already implicit, is itself deceptive inasmuch as it blurs, even erases, ization and funding have historically been generally more acute in
differences within the United States, collapsed into Hollywood, let Latin America than in Spain, where things have hardly been easy.
alone within Europe. After all, “European cinema,” long and loosely As important as protectionist measures and public subsidies
conceived as the great option to the Hollywood business machine may be, as concerted and effective as the policies of promotion of
(which is itself less coherent and unified as many would like to any given national or pan-national culture may appear, the cinema
believe), is far from being a coherent and unified totality, regardless is, in its material and technical aspects, a phenomenon of global,
of how many international co-productions there may be within the universal, international and/or multinational dimensions (the last
European Union. four adjectives are not, by the way, mere synonyms). With respect

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to Latin America, Paranaguá, once more, signals not just “the I have taken the liberty of citing Castillo so extensively because
importation of films to nourish new spectacles” but also “the impor- what he says here, in his beautifully argued book A contraluz
tation of machinery and technology [which] is common to exhibi- [Santiago de Cuba: Editorial Oriente, 2005], helped both to
tion as well as production. In spite of a few unsuccessful projects, frame and to model the symposium on new technologies and new
‘virgin’ film stock, the negatives as well as the material needed to narratives. The “art of our time,” emblem of modernity, does not
make copies, always had to be imported” (28). For the Brazilian just require copious resources and networks of international dis-
critic, the reality of “importation” is part and parcel of a relation tribution but also transnational cooperation. Accordingly, it raises
of dependence which renders comparative approaches as compli- important questions about what we understand by “our time,”
cated as they are urgent. From a somewhat different perspective, especially since both the “our,” or “we,” and the time or times to
Cuban critic Luciano Castillo—who, unlike Paranaguá, does not which the plural pronoun is attached reveal themselves, over and
translate material dependency in terms of “productive” and “veg- again, to be sundered and atomized in a world in which solidarity
etative” cinematic practices—grapples with the material conditions is far from being a global reality.
of technology that make the “seventh art” one of the most costly Along with techno-material questions about resources, produc-
and demanding of all (of the arts, only architecture—and even tions, and products, and socio-symbolic questions about coopera-
then, not always—outstrips it): tion, dialogue, solidarity or the lack thereof, there are, of course,
questions about artistic and political experimentation, innovation,
The last decade of the Siglo de Lumière for Cuban cinema was by and adaptation which are at play in the very notion of a “challenge
no means untouched by the economic restrictions imposed on the for the future” and, more concretely, the turn to “alternatives,” here
country during the so-called “Special Period.” The German Demo- in the form of video. These alternatives, and their bearing on the
cratic Republic, which had traditionally supplied filmic material, cinema (so-called alternative or experimental ventures definitely
collapsed as abruptly as the sadly famous Berlin Wall, dragging in included), comprised one of the themes of the symposium in Spain
its wake the entire socialist bloc in a process that had hitherto been and will surely figure in the upcoming symposium on the uses of his-
unimaginable. It constituted the coup de grâce for Cuban docu- tory in a cinematic context. Challenges for the future, creative alter-
mentary cinema which found an alternative of shorts in the guise of natives, resources, collaborations, and networks of production and
video—a veritable “challenge for the future,” according to Alfredo distribution, all of this and much more has been dizzyingly compli-
Guevara, founder of the ICAIC [Cuban Institute of Cinematographic cated in the face of growing, and seemingly unstoppable, processes
Art and Industry]—though without reaching the level of production of digitalization and the progressive eclipse of celluloid. The eclipse
and the achievements that had been so admired in other moments. of celluloid, along with its ontological charge of luminous traces of
The “art of our time” requires copious resources and, above all, the real objects and subjects, is unsettling for many (it would be interest-
ability to enjoy the international distribution that offsets costs and ing, that is to say unsettling, to imagine a new “Morel’s invention”
contributes to self-financing. Coproductions with European countries based on digitalization), but it is also, for many others, exciting (I
became for Cuba—as for the rest of Latin America—an unavoidable confess that, for me, it is at once unsettling and exciting), especially
option: to coproduce or not to produce, such is the very un-Shake- inasmuch as resources and products proliferate, diversify, and in
spearean dilemma in which our cinemas find themselves in times of some cases free themselves from the heavy dependency on bulkier,
globalization (21). more expensive technologies. The video “alternative” that Castillo

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mentions, and that is expanded in turn by yet other alternatives in phones, and other interactive technologies—that in many respects
other formats (some of which are as small, mobile, and relatively question the very concept of “cinema.” Similar questions obtain
affordable as the cellular phone), entails possibilities of a very for “narrative”—often derided as such in more self-consciously
different sort: for instance, a cinematic practice that is less white, experimental ventures— which undergoes any number of modifi-
less masculine, less heterosexual, less wealthy, and less directly cations in phenomena such as video-art and video-dance. What-
implicated in, and dependent on, the so-called First World. For it ever the case, profound and far-reaching changes in the industry
is worth remembering that alongside the global predominance of of cinema and in the very tools and procedures of filmmaking
Hollywood, indeed as a constitutive feature of it, stands the predom- are affecting, often in still unforeseeable ways, the formal con-
inance of a certain gender, race, class, and sexuality. Mexican film- tents and discourses of authorship (the auteur tradition with its
fetishized emphasis on the personal style
and signature of the director as artist) as
New audiovisual technologies raise possibilities well as the very figure of the auteur, often
displaced by actors, producers, distribu-
for different and revisualized understandings and tors, and an array of business people, but
practices of transnational cinema. also reconfigured, if not “democratized,”
as new, less costly devices become acces-
sible to a larger number of people. The
maker Juan Mora Catlett points to something similar, I submit, when proliferation of new audiovisual technologies raises, in short, not
he refers to “the facilities that working in digital modalities entails,” just challenges for the future but also possibilities for different and
facilities that include not just the “multi-camera” or “simultaneous revitalized understandings and practices of transnational cinema
use of various cameras” but also “the possibility of working [as in beyond an exclusively or even predominately European or North
his Eréndira Ikikunari] with a group of indigenous people instead of American framework. Ibero-American cinema, however fraught
professional actors” and, moreover, of working in their language, in with—and enriched by—national, regional, and local particulari-
this case P’urhépecha, rather than in Spanish. ties, remains, as it were, under construction, its building blocks
Although the progressive disappearance of celluloid (and by perhaps only now emerging.
extension, of a certain indexicality or referential capacity) and
of large screening venues (and by extension, of a certain shared Brad Epps is Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Chair
“theatrical” experience), and the concurrent rise of digitalization of the Committee on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard
and “private entertainment centers” constituted one of the princi- University. He also co-directs, with Haden Guest, the Committee on Ibero-
pal axes of our gathering in Cuenca and Madrid, the symposium American Film at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. His
also strove to take into consideration a variety of innovations and most recent book is All About Almodóvar: A Passion for Cinema (University of
alternatives—from video to the Internet, cyberspace, blogs, cell Minnesota Press, 2009).

Films from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Chile are featured in this issue of ReVista. They range from Golden-Epoch Mexican films
to the very latest in video productions in Cuba.

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Golden-Epoch Cinema p. 8
Eréndira Ikikunari p. 12
National Museum of Cinema p .16
Oscars for Mexican Filmmakers p. 19

Golden-Epoch Cinema in Mexico

Creating National Myths on the Silver Screen
b y Al m a G u i lle r m o p r i e t o

he acting was appalling, the Mexican movies defined a nation, and an will suddenly become easier, as if by virtue
inconsistencies of plot and character era, in a way that mattered deeply not only of nationality the traveler were somehow
so constant that any occasional consis- to Mexicans: throughout Latin America, the to be thanked for the gift of those old-time
tency seemed glaring. The soft-bodied weepy musicals and glamorous dramas held Mexican movies.
chorus girls always skipped and wiggled in tens of millions of viewers captive in their In this country almost no one who is not
non-unison and the heroines always sobbed silvery light. Not for nothing does one of Latino has ever seen a Mexican movie from
in precisely the same cadence, and no direc- the revolutionary poet Roque Dalton’s best- the Época de Oro, or Golden Era--as the
tor ever attached negative value to the term known poems end with the words: “Let’s see period from, let’s say, 1938 to 1954 is gener-
“over the top.” During its three-score-long if you sleep as good as you snore/ as Pedro ally known. And yet, whenever in the course
heyday, the Mexican movie industry pro- Infante used to say.” [my translation] To of a lecture I’ve shown a snippet of one of
duced hundreds of movies that scored low this day, Mexicans traveling through points those pinnacles of obsessive sentimentalism,
in at least one of the categories of wit, good south will generate friendly surprise when I’ve seen the entire audience relax, visibly let
taste, pacing, psychological insight, or com- their accent is revealed. “Mexicana!” a Peru- go, at the first strains of a mariachi song,
plexity—or, sometimes, all of the above. vian shopkeeper, or an Argentine bureau- or laugh at the movie’s silliest jokes with
And yet, as much as any single other force, crat, will exclaim. And life for the wayfarer good-natured delight, or stare in wonder at

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Mexico has a long history of filmmaking from the silent era
to the present. Often bolstered by state sponsorship, film in
Mexico has been closely interwoven with the country’s quest
for national identity.

the extreme beauty of María Félix. What is bureaucracy was giving rise to a new sort workers and employees (oficinistas) also
it about these bad films that makes them so of middle class, and at long last it was pos- wanted their own faces, language, and taste
powerful? Let us say, for the moment, that sible for families to live a predictable life, for high drama and great singing up on the
it is the strength of their conviction in their one in which weekend family entertain- screen. Moreover, a country that had seen
own Mexicanness. ment had pride of place. In the burgeoning itself ripped up and turned inside out by
In the early 1930s, Mexico began to economy brand-new movie houses, each nearly twenty years of warfare had a lot of
emerge from long decades of revolution more glamorous and extravagant than the stories to tell, and the factions that emerged
and social upheaval into the normality of a next, showed hypnotic entertainments. The victorious from the bloodshed wanted cer-
daily life, albeit a life transformed not only glimmering figures on the screen could be tain stories told their way. Thus, the emer-
by the Revolution itself but by an acceler- from anywhere—swashbuckling stars like gence of a national and nationalistic film
ated presence of the modern world. The Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore enterprise, financed by the government of
working class was working, an emerging played as important a role in the fantasy President Lázaro Cárdenas and, to a lesser
life of young Mexican matinee-movie-go- degree, by producers in the United States. In
Left: Dolores del Río in Flor Silvestre ers as they did north of the border—but in the new mythology known as nacionalismo
Above: scene from Gángsters contra charros post-revolutionary Mexico the proud new revolucionario, Mexico was not a tangle of

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Emilio Fernández (left) was a leading director in the Época de Oro of Mexican cinema; Dolores del Río was a leading actress.

corruption, backstabbing factions, religious the big-hearted and exquisitely courteous outpourings of national mourning that
warfare and outrageous inequality. Instead, male from la provincia who bears himself ended in riots at the cemetery and several
it was a nation forged in the fires of revolu- with virile elegance and an easy-going smile. reported suicides.) National identity became
tion, tempered by want, rooted in tradition Mexicans could both identify with him and actors’ and scriptwriters’ substitute for indi-
but emerging triumphant into the modern ache to be like him. Or take Dolores del vidual personality and character. Or, rather,
world. In any other country, perhaps, and Río and Pedro Armendáriz, stars and muses national identity became character. It is the
certainly at any other point in Mexico’s of the artiest of all the Mexican film direc- innocence and conviction with which these
development, the subjugation of creative tors, Emilio (“el Indio”) Fernández. Del Río representations of identity were enacted
endeavor to official history would have came from an haute bourgeois family and onscreen that made them vital, irresistible,
reeked of cynicism or propaganda. And was a star in Hollywood long before she and, in some unaccountable way, true.
propaganda there was, certainly, by the reel, ever acted in a Mexican movie. Armendáriz The last great box office hits of the
along with ghastly exploitation of the audi- inherited his famous green eyes from his Época de Oro included the Pedro Infante
ence’s hunger for “schmaltz,” but the Época American mother, was partly brought up trilogy about Pepe el Toro--heart-broken
de Oro of Mexican cinema coincided with in the United States, and was an unrecon- hero of the working poor--and the whole
a rare moment, perhaps akin to the first structed bohemian sometime-journalist, cycle of hip-shivering rumbera movies,
decade of the Cuban or Chinese Revolu-
tion, in which a poor and often victimized
country believed in itself and thus created
Mexico was a nation forged in the fires of revolution,
itself in the image it was in the act of con- tempered by want, rooted in tradition but emerging
juring. The energy released by this sort of
magical thinking can fuel the unlikeliest triumphant into the modern world.
representations of story.
Take Jorge Negrete, the opera-trained sometime art-student, before he turned to which made audiences dance and sob late
singer from a respectable Northern fam- acting as a lark. On the face of it, the notion into the 1940s. Then it was over. In the
ily, who would embody ranchero culture was ludicrous that these two worldly people 1950s only the comic actor Tin Tan would
by erasing the whole notion of social class. could embody, over and over again, indig- command the kind of devotion that made
Yes, it was true that most rancheros were enous Mexican couples crushed by poverty the stars of the Época de Oro household
more dark-skinned—and rather less well- and discrimination. But like Jorge Negrete, names, but the plots of even Tin Tan’s best
nourished—than he, and that he sang not Pedro Infante, and a dozen other screen movies unravel long before the ending, and
necessarily traditional ranchero songs wear- idols, these actors believed so strongly in there is a frantic energy in his acting that
ing a mariachi costume no mariachi had ever the archetypes they were helping to create can be read as trying too hard. He remains
worn before (indeed, the whole concept of that they came to embody them for the an old-style icon, but the formulas he clung
the mariachi was pretty much a Mexiwood generations. (I am using the overworked to lost their magic even as he did his best to
invention). But it was also true that Negrete term “screen idols” advisedly: Infante’s and prod them back to life.
embodied the Mexican persona at its best: Negrete’s funerals, for example, provoked Towards the end of the 1950s, Mexican

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movie studios made the decision to shift to ranchero movie would eventually morph internationally recognized, and therefore a
color film. The dispirited flatness of the first into the narcoepic, appallingly badly-made great source of pride for their many com-
movies in color, their unbearable triviality, drug sagas whose existence is barely noted patriots. But they are still hugely outsold
come as a shock after the great outpouring by the middle class, but which have found by Spiderman. And because they do not
of narrative that the Época de Oro repre- a huge audience, and are currently produced have a truly national audience, as a general
sented. It was as if the whole country had directly for DVD.) rule they are not definers of a new myth of
suddenly run out of stories to tell. Moreover, The dominance at the box office of national identity (Y tu mamá también comes
there were less and less stories in common. American movie spectaculars, the widespread to mind as an exception.) Instead, the new
Mimicking the beach-blanket songfests influence of television, and the demise of wave of directors are individual artists, mak-
Hollywood was churning out, Estudios nacionalismo revolucionario, which had col- ing highly personal films. This is probably
Churubusco produced teen musicals in lapsed under the weight of its own broken just as well: after all, the Época de Oro fed
which stand-ins for Sandra Dee and Troy promises, combined to demolish the Mexi- us lies on a silver spoon, and now we are
Donahue bounced aimlessly around the can film industry by the 1960s, despite the grown up. But oh, how delicious those lies
screen, singing tuneless covers off the U.S. fact that its revival is regularly announced. were, and oh, how we miss them!
pop charts. These misconceived attempts In recent years a dozen or so talented
at cosmopolitanism did find an audience young directors—mostly male, mostly Alma Guillermoprieto is a Mexican-born
(what else, after all, was there to see?), as devoted to full-length fiction features— journalist and author of several books,
did the only slightly more original risqué have, in fact, revitalized the art, if not including Samba and Dancing with Cuba.
dramas featuring heavy-breathing actresses the industry. But these new directors are A 2004-05 Nieman Fellow and 2006-07
in their slips, but the social classes no longer as determined to prove their ability to Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of
mingled at the movie theatre: the middle tell stories about any part of the world as Advanced Studies at Harvard, she taught
class surrendered entirely to imports— their artistic forbears were to sing the song a seminar on 20th-century Mexican history
mostly from the United States––while of Mexico. The standard-bearers of this and the movies as a 2008 Visiting Lecturer
an entirely different audience favored the new wave, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro in Harvard’s Romance Languages and
still-kicking ranchero genre. (Indeed, the González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón, are Literatures Department.

Tres épocas, tres ópticas, tres promesas…

P o r L e o n a r d o V i va s Pe ñ a lve r

Como tantos otros de mi generación, me habría encantado que política. En Dios y el diablo, Rocha inaugura la era del Cinema
América Latina desarrollara un cine de gran pegada, que lle- Novo brasileño que hurga en la vida preterida del sertao, los
gara cerca a los sueños de las multitudes. Lamentablemente no conflictos por la tierra y el milenarismo religioso. A pesar de
ha sido ése el medio cultural de masas más representativo de haber devuelto al cine la realidad social de su tiempo y traer
América Latina. Es otro género, la telenovela, el que se lleva los a colación los grandes mitos de la redención social, el Cinema
laureles, a pesar del escozor que eso produce entre las élites Novo terminó siendo un recuerdo precioso de cinemateca. Fresa
del continente. De muy joven, con las películas de vaqueros y chocolate tiene un tono más intimista que recoge los nuevos
americanas sólo competían algunas películas mexicanas de conflictos de la sociedad machista cubana cuando se ve en el
estilo charro y, por supuesto, Cantinflas. Apenas nos llegaron los espejo de sus sueños rotos. Por inventar personajes creíbles y
resplandores en extinción de la era argentina del tango. De allí por haber puesto en evidencia uno que otro mito del mar de la
en adelante el cine latinoamericano languideció. Ello fue así no felicidad, tuvo una mayor pegada. No obstante, su influencia
por falta de imaginación, de esfuerzo o de talento cinematográ- en el resto del continente también tuvo patas cortas. Finalmente,
fico. Vienen a mi memoria tres películas como testimonio de lo Amores perros refleja el volcán de la violencia urbana de la
que digo: Dios y el diablo en la tierra del sol (Glauber Rocha, gran urbe mexicana. En un guión digno de Vargas Llosa, las tres
1962) de Brasil, Fresa y Chocolate (Gutiérrez Alea, 1994) de historias que mezcla representan el chisporroteo de la vida de
Cuba y Amores perros (Alejandro González Iñarritu, 2000) seres que terminan viviendo para la muerte y desata un ritmo
de México. Cada uno de estos films encarna un momento par- frenético pero lúcido, difícil de conseguir en otras películas
ticular, tanto en la manera como la sociedad latinoamericana latinoamericanas. A pesar de su impacto limitado, para mí las
(si se me permite el abuso) se ve a sí misma, como en la forma películas mencionadas son tres lupas gigantes que me han per-
cinematográfica de encarar su temática y en la renovación de mitido saber del mundo en que vivo y de dónde vengo.
los votos por un nuevo cine que, esa vez sí, daría con la fórmula
de una cinematografía de calidad para el amplio público. Para Leonardo Vivas Peñalver es un Fellow en el Centro Carr para Políticas
mí fueron también un espejo de mi propia evolución personal y de Derechos Humanos, Escuela Kennedy, Universidad de Harvard.

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“Eréndira Ikikunari”
A Filmmaker’s Journey
b y J u a n M o r a C a t le t t

“Hucha mítetixapquia escacsi hupiringa,

máteru cuiripuecha. Atahpiticha encacsi
tyámu xucuparhapca ca engacsi cacapequa
úquaaca imaechani engancsi cuahpequar-
henga. Ma cuiripuhcu no cherheaspti.
Yurhistsquiri ma enga naneni, hamemquia
Eréndira arhicurhispti...”

“We had heard about the intruders: War-

riors covered with iron who descended from
heaven and killed all who dared oppose
them. The only one that didn’t fear them
was a girl, barely a woman: Her name was

he language is purehpecha, spo-
ken by the indigenous people who
had lived in Michoacán, Mexico,
long before the arrival of Europeans.
They were one of the most powerful pre-
Columbian empires, second only to their Above: The feature film Eréndira Ikikunari is based on a 16th-century legend. Here is a com-
worst enemies: the Aztecs. Actually, they posite made on the set in front of the camera; right: Eréndira Ikikunari in her body makeup.
were never conquered by anyone, so their
descendants still maintain many of their BACKGROUND Relación being the official history written by
traditions and customs. When I was shooting a mural depicting the victors, and the legend, handed down by
the History of Michoacán for a documen- oral tradition, being the only history book
SYNOPSIS tary film about the Mexican painter Juan of vanquished peoples.
The feature film Eréndira Ikikunari (2006) O’Gorman, I discovered the figure of an We planned to stage the film in locations
is based on a 16th-century legend. It tells the almost naked Indian Amazon facing the in Michoacán: the Paricutín volcano as the
story of a young girl, Eréndira, who became bloody, iron-clad Spanish conquistadors. abode of the gods, Lake Pátzcuaro, the ruins
an icon of bravery during the destruction Immediately I thought: “This is a great of two pre-Columbian cities and the spring
of her world by the Spanish conquistadors. theme for a movie.” The idea of doing a of the Cupatitzio River. As we would be
The intruders took advantage of conflicts film on a real red-blooded heroine was very working in actual ruins instead of building
and discord among the Mexican natives attractive; first, I didn’t have to invent or sets, we decided that the characters’ ward-
that allowed the newcomers to reap the idealize anything, and second, the theme robe and makeup should be based on the
spoils of a country divided. But Eréndira countered the low status that women had in archaeological sources (the drawings of the
refused to allow her nation to be destroyed pre-Columbian cultures and the degree of codices and representations of people in
and stood up against the social conven- invisibility in which women are maintained ceramics and stone) and the contemporary
tions that prohibited women from partici- even today. crafts of the Puréhpecha (pottery, textiles
pating in warfare. It took extreme courage The plot is based on two sources: the and the attire of the folk dancers).
for her to capture and learn to ride one of widespread legend of Princess Eréndira and
the Spaniards’ horses—seen as terrifying the 16th-century illustrated manuscript Rel- COSTUME
creatures by the natives. However, in this ación de Michoacán, written immediately The costume design was developed from the
fashion, Eréndira won the respect of tribal after the conquest. This codex narrates the Relación de Michoacán illustrations, where
leaders and became a symbol of resistance history of the Puréhpecha people, from their all the social strata of the pre-Columbian
and the preservation of her culture. She was mythical origin until the arrival of the Euro- Puréhpecha are depicted. Considering that
an exceptional woman, who fought to attain peans. The two accounts complement each these images are stylizations, their trans-
the dignity and respect that her culture only other as two pieces of a puzzle, although lation into three-dimensional costumes
granted men. giving opposed views of the conquest, the was a challenge. Instead of using materi-

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Shots taken during production

als such as tiger or deer leather, tropical ces, characters were usually decorated all starts with Eréndira preparing for her wed-
bird feathers, raw cotton or jute fabrics, over with signs, and certain Mexican indig- ding, we created a “wedding makeup” based
we employed materials used by contempo- enous tribes still paint their bodies for their on a pre-Columbian clay figure. Also, in
rary ethnic groups, like straw mats–-which ceremonies. It was surprising to discover the Relación, characters appear with faces
served to create armor–or hand-woven that a practically nude person covered with painted in different colors, information
fabrics. Instead of embroidering them, we body makeup appeared to be richly attired, that was very useful as it broadened our
used textile paint, imitating the codex’s and also, as in the case of the depiction of makeup palette.
drawings. The end result was very inter- gods, was transformed into an extraordi-
esting, achieving the look of a “cinematic nary being. SHOOTING THE FILM
pre-Columbian codex.” Another challenge In Eréndira we went even further. In the To make the film I sought the collabora-
was to present the conquistadors as super- Relación we read that the great warriors used tion of the indigenous community as well as
natural beings. We wanted to see them as to cover their bodies with the soot from input from scholars and linguists. I wanted
the Indians did, as “ironclad warriors that dense black smoke of green wood bonfires. the indigenous voice and perspective to be
had descended from heaven.” We hit upon This gave us the idea of using different qual- the true narrator. Then, instead of working
an answer in the folk dance of the “Curpi- ities of black body makeup to distinguish with professional actors speaking Spanish or
tis,” where we see natives wearing wooden
masks that depict white men. Their cos-
tumes were a combination of Renaissance
The collaboration of the indigenous community gives
armor and the wardrobe of the “Curpitis,” the film a very special authenticity, a statement of
including, of course, the masks. Puréh-
pecha devil masks were used to represent Original Peoples regarding their own History.
pre-Columbian gods. Even the horse wore
a metallic mask, acquiring by association a the great warriors from the foot soldiers. English, I chose to train indigenous actors,
divine quality. This goes on, of course, until Also, as the film deals with a fratricidal war, speaking their own tongue, acting in their
the Indians unmask the invaders, realizing the rebels were painted solid black and the imperial pre-Columbian cities, wearing the
that they are merely human. The only one Spaniards’ allies had white markings upon outfits of their ancestors and recreating a
that never loses his is the horse! their black makeup. In this way we could very important episode of their own history.
show that all belonged to a common cul- This gives the film a very special authentic-
MAKEUP ture, although they were fighting each other ity; more than mere entertainment, it’s a
Eréndira Ikikunari’s makeup was developed as harsh enemies. Eréndira had a red stripe Statement of the Original Peoples regarding
from an idea from my previous feature on on her face, to show that she was struggling their own History.
the Aztecs of Mexico, Return to Aztlán, in for all of her people. The dialogue is mostly spoken in a Puréh-
which we substituted body makeup for Makeup also served to give dignity and pecha with an ancient flavor, mixed with a
expensive costumes (expected in a period greatness to the characters, and to distin- little 16th-century Spanish and Latin. With
piece). In the Mixtec pre-Columbian codi- guish social strata and trades. As the film the help of linguists from several indigenous

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villages, we had to create a dialogue that moments that were captured by the cameras as that served the Europeans to strengthen
everybody who knows the tongue could in astounding photography. their dominion. Even today, the fact of being
understand. The actors, who were mostly of non-European origin is a source of shame
authentic Indians acting for the first time ever, POSTPRODUCTION for many people in Latin America.
went through intensive rehearsals in the eight The use of digital techniques during the edit- During the premiere of the film at the
weeks before we started shooting. For the role ing allowed us to combine the beautiful draw- Puréhpecha community theater in Pátz-
of Eréndira we wanted to break away from ings of the Relación de Michoacán with live cuaro (the city where the O’Gorman mural
the commonplace of mannish and superhu- action, establishing a style that followed the is located), the response of the indigenous
man heroines typical of U.S. action films. So Puréhpecha concept of the epic and allowed audience was extremely moving. One old
we chose a young actress doing her first pro- the rendering of a myth. So, through a non- lady who did not speak Spanish fluently
fessional role in a very feminine way. realistic style, a world that we can’t possibly said that she “was very happy because it
We started working on the shores of recreate is made credible. The story is finally was the first time she had understood a
Lake Pátzcuaro, in the ancient imperial cit- told by the voice of an old Indian through Mexican film.” One man told the audience
ies of Tzintzuntzan (the place of humming- the text and drawings of a codex. This com- very openly that since his childhood he was
birds) and Ihuatzio (the place of coyotes), bination of graphics and live action in collage made to feel ashamed of his language and
still mostly buried. The fact that we were form brought the form of the film near to culture, but after watching the film he felt
working in the place where the original the aesthetics of pre-Columbian codices while very proud. Those two comments were for
events took place also added a kind of magi- maintaining a very contemporary look. me justification enough for having made the
cal aura and communion with living nature The music was made from the sound film, which, incidentally, did very well in
and the ancient gods. This was echoed in recordings of the scenes. Human voices, film festivals all over the world and in box
the actors’ performances and in the camera sounds of nature, conches and drums, were office receipts in Mexico. The film has also
work. Due to the difficult shooting condi- used to create the music digitally. The film been shown in various indigenous commu-
tions, as we were working in exteriors, with thus attained a very special unity, as all the nities, always resulting in discussions about
natural light, with non-professional actors sound, music and images stemmed from the the necessity of studying their own history,
who were almost naked, the largest part same source. ending ancient grudges between villages,
was shot with three simultaneous cameras unifying the diverse dialects of their lan-
in digital cinema, one in high definition SOME LESSONS guage, and longing for more Eréndiras.
(HD) and two miniDVs. The other part Such films on pre-Columbian themes are
of the film was shot with two S16 mm extremely rare and contribute to the aware- Juan Mora Catlett is a filmmaker and
film cameras. This allowed the actors to ness that our most important roots, espe- full professor at The University Center of
perform without interrupting the flow of cially in a large part of Latin America, are not Film Studies at the National Autonomous
their emotions, as is usual in features. We only European. It’s true that since the con- University of Mexico (UNAM). He has
also could take advantage of the continuity quest both indigenous cultural heritage and distinguished himself in developing a style
of the lighting conditions and colors of each religions have been labeled as “primitive,” of fiction cinema based on pre-Columbian
hour of the day. There were many magical “useless,” “naive,” “inferior,” and “valueless,” cultural roots.

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it’s film In latin America

Mexico’s National Museum of Cinema

Filmmaking and Identity
By Claudia Arroyo Quiroz

exico has a long history of much influenced by European and Ameri- cinema gained international recognition
filmmaking, from the silent era can films, and through documentaries that particularly through the success of director
to the present, with some par- registered the final phase of Porfirio Díaz’s Emilio Fernández and his cinematographer
ticularly prolific periods that have dictatorship (1876-1910) and the ava- Gabriel Figueroa.
been stimulated by state sponsorship and tars of the Revolution (1910-17). In the In the 1960s, a new generation of film-
international recognition. Appreciation of 1920s, film production was not so abun- makers and film critics began to reject the
the results that began in the 1940s, when dant in part because the newly formed 1940s popular cinema. Their attempts to
Mexican films won prizes at European fes- state focused on sponsoring other projects form a new film culture, along with state
tivals such as Cannes, has continued more such as public education and mural art. It funding in the early 1970s, contributed to
recently with the success of directors such as was not until the mid-1930s that the post- the development of a kind of auteur cin-
Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, 2001/ revolutionary state invested in cinema on a ema led by directors like Felipe Cazals and
And Your Mother, Too), Alejandro González large scale, which led to the formation of a Arturo Ripstein. In the early 1990s, Mexi-
Iñárritu (Amores perros, 2000/Love’s a Bitch; film industry that in the 1940s dominated co’s cultural scene came to be refreshed by
Babel, 2006) and Guillermo del Toro (El the market of the Spanish-speaking world a new corpus of films produced by younger
laberinto del fauno, 2006/Pan’s Labyrinth). (Latin America, Spain and the United directors, which would come to be known,
The National Museum of Cinema seeks States). This period, known as the Golden both locally and abroad, as the New Mexi-
to broaden Mexico’s collective knowledge Age (1935-55), saw the emergence of new can Cinema. While several of these direc-
about its national film history, but first I’d genres, directors with distinctive styles and tors have continued to consolidate their
like to provide a little bit of it here. a local star system that helped to assure careers, with some of them now settled in
During the silent period, cinema served a massive audience. Characterized by the the international arena, in recent years other
as both entertainment and a source of predominance of a nationalist discourse new filmmakers have managed to produce
information through fiction features, very and a melodramatic narrative, Golden Age their first feature films, despite the finan-

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cial difficulties aggravated by Hollywood’s collectors; all of them have preserved not identity for the 21st century.”
supremacy in the country’s movie theatres, only the films themselves but also a wide The initial stage of the project has
and to a large extent thanks to the support range of still images, sound material and all involved the formation of a multidisci-
provided by local annual festivals such as sorts of objects related to cinematographic plinary working group that includes film
those in Guadalajara and Morelia. production. scholars, collectors, museographers, script-
Unlike the auteur cinema produced from Such preservation work has led to the writers, architects and visual artists. This
the 1960s to the present, which has been creation of the National Museum of Cin- group is currently working on the museum’s
viewed and praised mainly by the middle ema, a project sponsored by the Mexican inaugural exhibition, entitled Cinema and
classes, the more popular, industrial and Institute of Cinematography (IMCINE), the Mexican Revolution, which will open
melodramatic cinema (Golden Age films the official entity in charge of promoting in the second half of 2010 at the Anti-
and successful genres of subsequent decades the development of the country’s cinemato- guo Colegio de San Ildefonso during the
such as wrestler and fichera films) is very graphic activities. President Felipe Calderón commemoration of the centenary of the
much cherished by a large part of Mexico’s announced the creation of the museum in beginning of the Revolution. Conceived as
population. Love of these older films has 2008 during the celebrations of the cen- the official “letter of presentation” of the
been fuelled by the state and by media com- tennial of the birth of the cinematographer museum, the exhibition will explore how
panies that have promoted this film heritage Gabriel Figueroa. The document outlining cinema, both national and foreign, docu-
through retrospectives, commercial DVD the project highlights the cultural and edu- mentary and fiction, has represented the
editions and constant TV reruns. In par- cational function assigned to the museum, Mexican Revolution from the outbreak of
ticular, Golden Age cinema has been widely stating that it will be “a dynamic and inter- that war to the present day.
celebrated by official discourse and the mass active space that will illustrate the history of Housed in nine rooms, the exhibi-
media as a key component of the nation’s our cinema and the contributions made by tion will treat the following themes: the
cultural heritage, for instance through hom- Mexican cinema’s images and filmmakers to sociopolitical and cultural context of pre-
ages dedicated to directors and stars. both our culture and our collective imagin- revolutionary Mexico; the documenta-
Mexico’s long tradition of preserving its ings.” The document also envisages that the ries produced during the Revolution; the
film heritage is maintained at present by museum will take part in the reconfigura- representation of the revolutionary leaders
institutions like Cineteca Nacional (Educa- tion of the national identity, stating that the (caudillos) in fiction films; the genealogy
tion Ministry) and the Filmoteca UNAM project aims “to draw the new generations of the representation of the Revolution in
(National Autonomous University), film to the cultural referents of our cinema in Mexico’s visual culture in the 1920s and
studios (Estudios Churubusco) and private the process of constructing our national 1930s; the construction of natural and

Shown here are posters for many popular Mexican films.

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it’s film In latin America

artificial spaces in the mise-en-scène of the Néstor García Canclini indicates in Cultu- addressee’ who is hailed by the museum as a
films; the representation of the physical and ras híbridas. Estrategias para entrar y salir de subject and offered ‘a position in history and
social mobilizations caused by the civil war; la modernidad (México: Grijalbo, 1990), a relationship to that history.’” In addition
the characterization of violence and death museums have constituted the scene for to noting this function, we will also witness
during the war; the construction of gender the classification and assessment of cultural to what extent the museum mobilizes a dis-
identities in fiction films; and finally, the goods in Mexico along with schooling and course regarding its potential contribution
representation of the Revolution in Hol- the mass media. to a process of reconfiguring the national
lywood and European cinema. The design Since the heritage to be exhibited is film, identity, as the document presenting the
of these rooms will be based on both the the National Museum of Cinema could project suggests.
research carried out by film historians and prove to be at once advantageous and sen- In displaying the history of the film rep-
the proposals made by museographers and sitive, as it will be maneuvering a corpus of resentation of the Revolution, the exhibition
artists. In addition, there will be outdoor cultural goods that hold a special place in will allow the viewer to see how this represen-
public exhibitions that will include installa- the collective imagination. In this sense, it tation has changed over time, in accordance
tions and activities such as film screenings,
a collective book with research articles that The creation of this museum is inscribed within a long
will be based on the exhibition; and a televi-
sion series produced by TV UNAM using tradition of administering cultural heritage that goes
some of the research findings.
The creation of this museum is inscribed back to the beginning of the post-revolutionary period.
within a long tradition of administering
cultural heritage that was implemented in will be interesting to see how the museum with discursive formations and the political
Mexico from the beginning of the post- addresses the visitor as a citizen in relation necessities of the various historical periods.
revolutionary period. Given the nationalist to his/her country’s history of filmmaking. The exhibition will carry out a conceptual
orientation of its post-revolutionary policy, In “Muralism and the People: Culture, and spatial organization of film materials
Mexico has invested a great deal in both Popular Citizenship, and Government in that will guide, in one way or another, the
preserving its cultural heritage and inte- Post-Revolutionary Mexico” (The Commu- interpretations of the visitor/citizen about
grating it into an extensive system of muse- nication Review, 5:7-38, 2002), Dartmouth cinema’s construction of the Revolution. In
ums, more than any other country in Latin College art history professor Mary K. Coffey the context of Coffey’s analysis, this is related
America. As UAM anthropology professor describes the museum visitor as a “‘citizen- to the fact that the meaning of any visual cul-
ture is always contingent upon contextualiza-
tion; an idea that can be developed further
through the following questions: where is the
piece of visual culture located? What are the
rituals governing interpretation in that site?
How is it framed or positioned?
Through this exhibition and subsequent
ones, the National Museum of Cinema will
provide novel and unique ways of display-
ing and socializing Mexico’s film culture.
This will allow the public to reflect upon
the significance of this crucial aspect of the
country’s cultural history and, consequently,
also on the role of audiovisual culture in the
construction of collective imaginings and

Claudia Arroyo Quiroz holds a doctorate

in Latin American Studies from the Birk-
beck College (University of London) and
is a research professor at the Universidad
Autónoma Metropolitana-Cuajimalpa in
Mexico City. Her research has focused on
Mexico’s cultural history of 19th and 20th
centuries; she has published articles on
nationalist and identity discourses in
Many Mexican films told the story of revolutionary heroes, as seen in these posters. Mexican literature and film.

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Oscars for Mexican Filmmakers

But Where Are the Mexican Films?
B y H u m be r t o Delg a d o

couple of years ago, in 2007, the
so-called Three Amigos (the filmmak-
ers Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del
Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu)
went up on stage for the 79th Oscar Awards
presentations. Their three films (Children of
Men, Pan’s Labyrinth and Babel, respectively)
garnered a total of sixteen nominations for
the golden statuette (ten of them for people
born in Mexico). Together, they won four
of the Oscars handed over that night and
a contract with Universal for $100 million
dollars to produce five movies, one or two
of them in Spanish.
On the other side of the border, the
event was much celebrated and publicized.
This national triumph had great symbolic
value for Mexico. These directors and other
Mexican artists had managed to realize the
American dream by directing Robert de
Niro, acting alongside of Brad Pitt, and From left to right: Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro
working as photography directors for Tim
Burton or the Coen brothers. Film criti- greeted the audience in the movie awards in Espaldas mojadas (1953). Only a strong
cism in Mexico, sometimes excessively con- ceremony seen throughout the world. film industry could receive exiled Spanish
descending, at other times extremely harsh, The initial point of departure for any filmmaker Luis Buñuel and help revive his
was polarized between critics who unabash- discussion of Mexican film is its so-called career, or let a terribly bad filmmaker, Juan
edly praised the filmmakers for displaying Golden Age, whose exact dates are defined Orol (the local Ed Wood), write, direct,
high technical expertise and notable aes- differently by different commentators. In produce, act in and compose the music for
thetic quality in these multimillion dollar “El cine nacional,” for example, Carlos a movie in which Mexican charros—a type
projects, and commentators who considered Monsiváis places the era from 1930 to 1954, of Mexican cowboy—defend the national
these films to be mere “popcorn movies,” while Rafael Aviña and Gustavo García situ- sovereignty when threatened by the Chi-
commercial factory piecework that erased ate its beginning in 1936, the year of the cago Mafia (Gángsters contra charros, 1947).
national identity and eclipsed true Mexican legendary film Allá en el Rancho Grande. In This peculiar and weird film demonstrates
films with cultural values that defined the any case, the period encompassed a little less the good health and diversity of a cinema-
country or that had taken risks to create than thirty years and managed to dominate tography capable of making 108 movies
formal avant garde experiments. Regardless the film industry in Latin America, with in 1949 and 150 in 1950, in contrast to
of this polemic (impossible to resolve in this the exception of Argentina. Mexico made the harsh and sad reality of the end of the
space), the night of the 2007 Oscars could the most widely seen films in Spanish on century, when only thirteen movies were
also be said to demonstrate a historic iner- the continent, including in Brazil and the made in 1997.
tia of cinematography in a country which United States; here, in 1950, 300 movie In this entire Mexican Belle Époque,
had been capable of generating its own houses showed Spanish-language films, Mexico-United States relations were notably
export-quality movies. In this, the relations mainly Mexican movies. important. The first factor that should be
between Mexico and the United States have Commercial success led to thematic rich- mentioned—a commonplace for all refer-
played a fundamental role that is respon- ness in the film industry. Producers made ences regarding this period—was Mexico’s
sible for the present situation—not only movies of an expressionist nature such as northern neighbor’s entry into World War
cinematographic, but also the economic, Dos monjes (1934), political-historical films II. The U.S. film industry needed to ration
political, social and cultural. Let us use the such as ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! (1935) or its production of celluloid (the material for
flashback technique to explain some of the films dissecting specific sectors of the society making film) and to concentrate its movie
background that led to the night when the such as the family in Una familia de tantas production on war-related movies and pro-
Three Amigos took each other’s hands and (1934) or immigrants to the United States paganda. Thus, although it continued to be

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film In latin America

the dominant industry in the world, it had Sergei Eisenstein’s ¡Que viva México!, about this resource to capture the Mexican land-
to cede a bit of room to its neighbors. In which he declares, “This is where I learned scape, imbuing it with a lyrical essence.
addition, European film, the second domi- the pain of the people, the land, the strike, Through Figueroa, Mexican photography
nant market in Latin America, directly suf- the struggle for freedom and social justice. turned into a school with a certain prestige
fered the effects of the war. Mexico took It was wonderful.” This statement is in and in the world, to the degree that today, fifty
advantage of the situation when it declared of itself an aesthetic declaration that Emilio years later, there are at least five Mexican
itself an ally of the United States against Fernández would abide by to the end. cameramen filming in Hollywood and win-
the German-Italian-Japanese axis. Its Span- The inspiring mix of the North Ameri- ning Oscars for which Figueroa was nomi-
ish-language film competitors fell behind: can film and the Soviet director would nated, but did not win.
Spain was recuperating from a civil war, influence Fernández significantly after he Last but not least is Dolores del Río,
and Argentina was trapped in its relation- returned to Mexico and became the author who arrived in Hollywood in a very differ-
ship with Germany and Italy. Hence the of Flor Silvestre, Enamorada, Río Escondido, ent manner. Unlike Figueroa and Fernán-
Mexican movie industry flourished and María Candelaria and Salón México, among dez, the future star of the Golden Age
expanded throughout the continent. his most significant films. As does Almodó- was a member of Mexico’s wealthy upper
In addition to the factor of the war, var today, Fernández stylized melodrama in class and emigrated to California—to the
the Golden Age of movies in Mexico was such a fashion as to give it a tragic aspect circles of the jet set—after the upheaval of
strengthened by closeness to Hollywood. The and transform it into something greater the Mexican Revolution. Del Río became
proximity of the border allowed many Mexi- that could effectively transmit the values of an actress in silent films and made about
can technicians and film artists to develop a post-revolutionary Mexico. The idealiza- 30 movies, many of them very successful
their skills in the United States and to learn tion and exaltation as a way to construct and of the highest quality. She worked with
from Hollywood the difficult art of making the identity of the country led the director highly regarded directors such as Raoul
movies. The most notable case—because to create diverse mythic figures that have Walsh, King Vidor and Busby Berkeley, and
of its importance and because it serves as a survived in the local imaginary (the Peasant, in 1928 even managed to make a hit as a
microcosm of the relationship between the the Motherland, the Mother, Providence, singer on the soundtrack of the silent film
two neighbors—is that of the group made all with capital letters). He is, without a Ramona. Although she contributed to the
up of Emilio Fernández (director), Gabriel doubt, the most nationalist among nation- promotion of the Latin stereotype, her ele-
Figueroa (cinematographer) and Dolores del alist filmmakers and this turned him, for gant and aristocratic beauty, together with a
Río (actress). This group is unanimously better or worse, into one of the few Mexican true dramatic talent, made her a diva in her
considered by critics as the crew that brought film directors, perhaps the only one, that time; while a minor diva alongside some of
film aesthetics of Mexico to its highest point has made it to a select pantheon known as the great divas of the period, she achieved
during the Golden Age in the middle of the authors’ films. The grandfather of the Three greater fame than contemporary Mexican
20th century, a status that even today no Amigos returned from the United States to actresses like Salma Hayek, who has not
one has been able to attain. All three had his country of origin, not to reencounter but managed to achieve a high-quality role in
been in Hollywood under different circum- to reinvent it. He never would have been her North American experience. Unlike
stances, and each one was representative of able to accomplish this without the experi- other non-English-speaking actors, Dolo-
the diverse strata of Mexican society. ence of living in the United States, distanced res del Río made an easy transition from
First, there is Emilio Fernández, the wet- from his home country. silent film to the talkies and managed to
back who worked his way up to learning how The director would not have accom- continue her career in the United States. In
to make movies after laboring as bricklayer, plished much without the help of another 1942, getting close to 40 and knowing that
longshoreman and waiter in Chicago and notable artist: the cinematographer Gabriel Hollywood tended to put older actresses out
Los Angeles. He then became an apprentice Figueroa, who also had his own experience to pasture, she decided to return to Mexico.
in several movies, where he learned a bit of in Hollywood. If Emilio Fernández crossed There she met with intellectuals and artists,
everything and was a specialist in nothing. the border as a wetback, Figueroa did so among whom was “Indio” Fernández. The
Later, thanks to his athletic figure, he was through networking among producers. director offered her the lead role in Flor Sil-
hired as a double and an extra in movies, Figueroa received a scholarship in 1935 vestre and this would begin the second act
including a few for Douglas Fairbanks. The from the Mexican film company CLASA of her career, the face of love and feminine
“Indio” —the Indian—(a nickname he wore to study with the legendary Gregg Toland, anguish of Mexican melodrama.
with honor) is even said to have been the who later would become the cameraman for The director, the photographer, the
model who posed for the Oscar statuette, Citizen Kane and also would take charge of actress. The wetback, the exchange student,
an unlikely tale but indicative of his striking teaching Orson Wells about the language the aristocrat. All the cinematographic sec-
looks. Fernández arrived in Hollywood in of film. Just as Eisenstein was important tors and the social strata of Mexico were
the 1920s, when the cinematographic devel- for Fernández, Toland’s style would mark enriched through this experience. U.S.
opment of silent films had reached its peak Figueroa and through him the entire Mexi- cinematography gave them the technical
after its institutionalization with films such can film industry, with the use of deep focus expertise and allowed them to encounter
as Intolerance in the previous decade. It was in which the depth of field is increased and their own cultural values that they later
also in California where “El Indio” learned of the cinematographic space is expanded. The developed on returning to their native land.
an unfinished film that affected him deeply: “Indio” and Figueroa learned to optimize There are also other examples, such as Gon-

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The image above depicts a scene from El Rancho Grande.

zalo Gavira, the first Mexican to win an of films shown in Mexico were from the permitted the strengthening of the Mexican
Oscar; his award was for the sound effects United States, while 8.3% were Mexican, industry, but at the same time, power of the
in The Exorcist. Gavira managed to create according to cultural critic Néstor García former diminishes the latter. But one should
peculiar sounds with ordinary objects, such Canclini. The vicious cycle this produces is not forget the fact that in its turn, Mexico
as the possessed girl’s famous turn of the evident: if Mexican films do not profit from dominated the Latin American film indus-
head, a sound that he made with a comb. or recoup their investment, movie produc- try in the middle of the last century and
Another success story is that of Luis Man- tion is cut back and thus fewer local films hindered cinematographic development in
doki, the first true filmmaker of this new are shown. In response, the Mexican film- other Latin American countries as a result of
bevy of directors at the end of the 20th cen- making community has often protested, the inevitable spiral of the big fish gobbling
tury. Mandoki emigrated to California as a including a 1998 international symposium up the smaller ones. The strengthening of
result of the Mexican economic crisis and that was called Los que no somos Hollywood national film industries is not possible with-
achieved a certain prestige in Hollywood; (“Those of Us Who Are Not Hollywood”). out strengthening the economy and public
years later, in a curious reversal, he returned These protests resulted in an effort to policy in each country; at the same time, a
to Mexico to support the causes of the Mex- implement a law to protect the Mexican robust film industry reflects the autonomy
ican and Central American left, making left- cinematographic market, a law that was and strength of an economically healthy
ist, politically committed films. completely rejected by Jack Valenti, direc- and democratic country (film in totalitar-
Given this history, it is not surprising tor of the Motion Picture Association of ian governments should be considered as
to see the Three Amigos on stage for the America and by the U.S. government itself. a separate, distinct case). The best way to
79th Oscar ceremony. González Iñárritu, The law, of course, never went into effect. guarantee that many more “Tres Amigos”
Cuarón and del Toro are products of the Despite these problems, thanks to new digi- will emerge and that new artistic talents
Mexican film industry, which, even in cri- tal technologies and the participation of the will be developed in other Latin American
sis, still maintains the infrastructure forged Mexican government, 70 movies were made nations is to guarantee the economic and
in the years of splendor, enabling it to in 2008, but only 46 of them were ever social health of those nations. Utopia is still
develop quality movies within the scope shown, and as a result the audience for local desirable—and still possible.
offered by the commercial and political rela- movies decreased dramatically. The artificial
tions with its northern neighbor. In spite lifeline that the Mexican state has granted to Humberto Delgado, a third-year doc-
of this history of being good neighbors in the movie industry will not help if there is toral student of Latin American literature
the film industry, there are elements that no fair competition within the local market in Harvard’s Department of Romance
have negatively affected the Mexican film and the Mexican film industry will continue Languages and Literatures, studied Latin
industry, bringing about its present crisis. to be in crisis for at least the next few years. American literature at the Universidad
The free market strategy, especially through This problem can be seen as a microcosm Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEM)
NAFTA, has constrained cinematography of what has happened in other areas—eco- and later film directing at the Universidad
south of the Bravo River and has permitted nomic, social, cultural and political—of Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM),
U.S. monopolies to dominate the Mexican U.S.-Mexico relations. On the one hand, where he also received a Master’s in Com-
movie houses. For example, in 2000, 84.2% the strong U.S. film industry has directly munications Studies.

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Brazilian Cinema Now p. 22
Neither Sertão nor Favela p. 28
Brazilian Film through U.S. Lenses p. 31

Brazilian Cinema
Between Plasticity and Blindness
B y N i c o l a u Sevce n k o

now falling in the city of sao paulo, in southern brazil?
Taking a helicopter in São Paulo then arriving a few moments
later in the deep wilderness of the Amazon jungle, half a con-
tinent further away to the north? Then meeting a white Asian
tiger in the heart of the Amazon forest? Returning afterwards to São
Paulo to watch martial-arts duels between triad and yakuza-style
gang members? One could very well say that none of those things
are remotely possible in the real world. Well, but as a matter of fact,
they are the very stuff globalization is made of.
These days, instead of trusting your reason or even your instincts,
you are rather invited to believe what is shown on a screen. We are
living under the influence of the spectacle gone wild. The scenes
described above are part of a new Brazilian (?) film, aptly named
Plastic City. It is actually a co-production involving Chinese, Japa-
nese and Brazilian investors, casting Asian film stars Joe Odagiri,
from Japan, and Anthony Wong, from Hong Kong, under the
direction of the renowned and twice Cannes Festival nominee Yu
Lik Wei, from mainland China. The Asian associates put in 60% of
the investments, leaving 40% for their Brazilian partners. However,
the entire budget for the production had to be spent in Brazil, which
technically made it a Brazilian film. But is it, really?
Welcome to a new age. Once upon a time there was a rather
prestigious tradition called Brazilian cinema. Nowadays what you
are going to have will be more and more films made in Brazil. It
might sound pretty much the same, but it is not. Some call it glo-
balization, others call it outsourcing, everybody agrees though that
local contexts, cultural singularities and historical circumstances
need to be erased if your aim is to place a visual product in the
world market, designed for indiscriminate consumption. Within
this new strategy, the more you neutralize the local flavors, enhanc-
ing on the other hand the colors, the elegant display and the fancy
glasses, cutlery and porcelain, the closer you get to the shiny gates

Filmographer Ken Woroner on the set of Blindness

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Brazilian cinema has a long tradition of struggling to
represent its multicultural and multiethnic population on
the silver screen. It also has not been afraid to confront social
problems in innovative ways.

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film In latin America

of success. Just follow the victorious formula of internationally Janeiro with the invading swarms of rival gangs trafficking cocaine
acclaimed new cuisine. Along that path you would eventually get and crack-cocaine from the 1970s onwards.
into Plastic City. In that sense they might have a different syntactic structure and
Brazilian film producers were in fact among the first to take a an expressive voice of their own, but they were in line with the criti-
step into the huge and highly coveted Chinese market. Rede Globo, cal tradition and political awareness so typical of Brazilian Cinema
the most powerful Brazilian media network, involving publish- Novo of the 1960s and 70s. They were both mostly financed by
ing, press, radio, recording, video, TV and film productions, was resources collected from local and small film producers, relying on
a pioneer in selling its main product, soap operas, to the Chinese. quite limited budgets. Their remarkable success, however, most of
When, after chairman Mao’s death, it sold them “Isaura, the Slave” all with respect to international audiences, was due less to their
the show became the greatest hit ever at the local TV. The star ethical stances or political concerns relative to the local and the
playing the main role, Lucélia Santos, turned into a mass celebrity, Brazilian contexts than to their visual impact and the sheer degree
her visit to China leading to unprecedented degrees of personality of crude violence that they openly displayed.
worship, even if compared to the revelries of the Cultural Revolu- Neither of the directors subscribed to this rule of fire power
tion. As a consequence of her success, Lucélia Santos launched her imposed by the gangs and the responding police force, but obvi-
own film production company, Nhock Produções, and, in 2007, ously they couldn’t control the reactions of their audiences, least of
in collaboration with China’s Beijing Rosat, co-produced “Love at all outside Brazil. So, regardless of their good intentions, what they
the Other End of the World,” aiming at a potential audience of two intended to show as a tragedy was mostly received as a spectacle, a
billion spectators. very amusing one at that, thanks to their striking visual skills and
As far as Western screens are concerned however, two other their rather hyperbolic narrative techniques. From that perspec-
Brazilian films became big hits: The City of God (2002-3), directed tive, like it or not, although the films were conceived as Brazilian
by Fernando Meirelles, and Elite Squad (2007), by José Padilha. cinema, they were received mostly as “world cinema,” globalized
Although both films enjoyed wide international success, receiving against their will.
positive reviews and being acclaimed by audiences wherever shown, It is quite interesting to follow Fernando Meirelles’ artistic trajec-
they could still claim their place as belonging to the tradition of tory after achieving celebrity status thanks to the almost universal
Brazilian cinema. However much they might have tapped into the praise received by The City of God. His most recent film is Blindness
visual dialects of TV and Hollywood narrative resources, and they (2007-8), based on the book An Essay on Blindness by the Nobel-
did a lot, they nonetheless strived to capture the real social tensions prize winner Portuguese writer José Saramago. This time the film
behind the excruciating violence that engulfed the favelas of Rio de was a co-production of Brazilian, Canadian and Japanese investors

Black Orpheus
b y Ke n n e t h R . M a x w ell

In 1959, Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus won the Palme d’Or at looking for her. She is electrocuted.
the Cannes film festival. With its haunting Bossa Nova soundtrack But the body of Eurydice is removed and Orpheus visits the
by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfá, the film became an inter- city’s Bureau of Missing Persons to find out where she is. He
national sensation. I saw it for the first time in 1962 while I was attends a Macuma ceremony where he is able to establish contact
an undergraduate at Cambridge. with her spirit. He then collects her body from the city morgue.
The ancient story of love and death is transposed by Camus When he reaches the favela, his former girl friend rushes at him
to the annual carnival of Rio Janeiro. Against the beat of low but angrily and he falls backwards over the steep side of the cliff. The
continuous drums, the film is tied together by the haunting songs of film ends with Benedito, a young friend of Orpheus, strumming
“Manhã de Carnaval” and “O Nosso Amor.” Orpheus, played by his guitar. Sitting together on the favela hilltop with Zeca, another
Bruno Mello, and Eurydice, played by Marpessa Dawn, retell the young friend, a little girl dances before them. Together they wel-
ancient Greek myth of a youth who travels to the land of the dead come the morning sun as it arises over the Rio de Janeiro horizon.
to bring back the woman he loves. Orpheus becomes a street car I saw the film again last night for the first time since 1962 in
conductor, and Eurydice a country girl visiting Rio for the first time. a DVD from the Criterion collection. It was as magnificent as I
The favela where the story unfolds looks down over the city and its remembered it.  
Death, portrayed in a skeleton costume by Adhemar Ferreira Kenneth R. Maxwell was a Visiting Professor of History at Harvard Uni-
da Silva, pursues Eurydice who has fallen in love with Orpheus versity and directed the DRCLAS Brazil Studies Program. He is the author of
as he has with her. Chased into the terminal of the tram cars by several books, including Naked Tropics: Essays on Empire and Other Rogues
Death, Eurydice tries to escape him by jumping and clutching the and The Making of Portuguese Democracy. He is currently working on a book
wires of the trams. Orpheus arrives and switches these on while on the Lisbon earthquake.

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Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (center) talks with Blindness stars Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore.

on a grand budget of an amazing US$ 25 million. The story begins with a sequence of scenes showing the com-
The film casts a fine selection of Hollywood stars, among them plex dynamics of daily life in a huge metropolis: people rushing
Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Gael García through the streets, amidst skyscrapers and metro stations, seen in
Bernal, plus Japanese megastars Yusuke Iseya and Yoshiko Kimura, shop windows, climbing stairs, accessing lifts and elevators, sur-
and some local talents like Brazilian actress Alice Braga. The film rounded by endless masses of vehicles moving in all directions.
was shot on two different continents, two different hemispheres and Fast camera movements, interspersed with precise cuts, focus on
in four different countries: Brazil, Uruguay, Canada and Japan. It visual signs of diverse nature, lights, colors, poles, posters, letters,
was granted the rare privilege of being shown at the opening session drawings, symbols, logos, spots, all the plethora of signals people
of the Cannes Festival in 2008. This time, what we have is rather have to rely on in order to find their way within the chaos of the
globalization by design. metropolitan daily rush.
Even more revealing than this massive convergence of global This multiplicity of visual codes reminds us of how much
resources is the effect that such a complex blend of diverse cul- modern life has become ever more dependent on sight and visual
tural sources had upon the aesthetic configuration of the film itself. orientation, to the detriment of other senses and of our affective
The whole work shows a deliberate effort to dispel any concrete needs. Urban order is a coordinated result of rational planning,
references to specific geographic, historic, social, ethnic or cultural mechanical discipline of bodies and vehicles, all operating through
background. The title Blindness is meant to suggest a rather wide strict sight-oriented navigation. Rational systems provide the back-
gamut of blocked senses. Taken straight from José Saramago’s book, ground while visual communications prevail in the foreground in a
the story was devised as an allegory. In many ways it could even be perfectly integrated network, where human beings are the vibrating
understood as a critique of the detrimental effects of globalization molecules that keep the whole hive going.
upon local cultures and social bonds in general. All of a sudden, an epidemic of blindness falls upon this world
But, once again, good intentions aside, it could as well stress the order. Disruption is instant and total. Since absolutely everything
conclusion that the many processes that lead to cultural dissolu- is dependent on visual orientation, the whole system collapses like
tion and wrecked communities are so well advanced by now that a sand castle touched by an unexpected wave. Only then do people
we have already passed a point of no return. Damage is done, the realize that they were already blind long before. From within the
world as we used to know it is gone for good, as an irretrievable ensuing chaos, the character played by Julianne Moore emerges as
past. Changes were so fast and so huge that they became irreversible. the modern Ariadne. She is the only one who is not affected by the
We might not accept it or we might not see it that way yet, but epidemic. She will eventually use her sight to drag a group of people
that is because we are all plagued now by a new and particularly out of the deadly vortex by a rope. They are a group of twelve-- a
morbid form of blindness. Yet, the film tries to unwind a thin rather symbolic number, like the apostles, the knights of the Round
tread of hope all along its apocalyptical development—a kind of Table, the twelve peers of France, hence a flicker of hope.
slim Ariadne’s thread leading our way through the interstices of To make things more interesting, one could compare Blindness
the global labyrinth. with another film, shot just about a year earlier, The Smell from the

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film In latin America

On the set of Blindness

Toilet Drain, directed by Heitor Dhalia. It is a local production by a large artificial eye, immediately terrifying his victims with his
a myriad of little independent producers, with an all-Brazilian cast, triple sight. Here we have almost the opposite of Blindness, mean-
made with a rather restricted budget, which nevertheless achieved ing, however, almost exactly the same thing. Reason is equal to
a warm reception among audiences and critics in general. Having sight that is equal to power. Closing the eyes of the shopkeeper for
been selected for the Sundance Film Festival in the United States, good becomes not only the main aim of all those vilified creatures
in Brazil it was granted the highest film awards in two of the most but also the ethical stance of the film itself.
important Film Festivals, in São Paulo and Rio. For all these creden- Although the production of this film is not cosmopolitan, the
tials we could consider it as a part of traditional Brazilian cinema, final product can nevertheless be shown anywhere in the world
old style. But is it? without losing any of its decisive features or meanings. It is not
Surprise, surprise, it has a lot to do with Blindness. First of all, it is designed to talk to Brazilian audiences in particular about their
also an allegory that makes a similar effort to erase any solid references concerns, but to world audiences at large, about world dilemmas
to time, place and context. It is rather a comic parody of a sermon, present and future. Although produced, directed and shot in Brazil
like Erasmus’ The Praise of Folly, except that the evil propensity being by Brazilians, it can travel the world over. In this case, again, it is
chastised here is greed. The story is about the owner of a second-hand world cinema made in Brazil, rather than Brazilian cinema. Is this
shop, who humiliates and abuses the sellers when they come to his new trend good? Is it bad?
office because he knows they are desperate for the money. Of course, it is up to the individual to form his or her own opin-
More than just buying or trading objects, his pleasure resides ion about it. What is clear, however, is that when cinema assumes a
in destroying his customers’ sense of dignity and self-respect. Tak- worldly configuration, it becomes more abstract, more aloof, more
ing for granted that everybody has a price, he wants to shout out thinly shaped into universal parables and empty surfaces. After all,
loud to his victims how shamefully cheap they actually are. Their the world is more of a word than a place. Being everywhere is also
degradation gives him the pride of a superior rank, a discriminating being nowhere in particular; referring to everybody also misses the
mind, a prophylactic mission and a noble destiny. As many others concrete living creature. The films and the trends discussed here
scattered all over big cities, he is a modern Dr Faustus, a master in ring an alarm. Trying to encompass the world as whole into a single
the business of buying and selling souls. scene, as a sublimated Plastic City submitted to the panoptic eye of
The camera plays an essential role in these dialogues of degrada- its globalized camera, cinema risks creating the most monumental
tion. Since the shopkeeper and his customers are seated in front of ever form of collective blindness.
one another, it is the sight of the powerful buyer which casts down
the humble seller. Thus clever camera movements underscore this Nicolau Sevcenko is a Professor of Romance Languages and Lit-
abject play, by directing the wide-open eyes of the greedy man to eratures at Harvard University. Formerly a professor of History
the abased countenance of his dispossessed clients. The women are of Culture at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Brazil, and
additionally humiliated; he demands that they expose themselves at King’s College, London, Sevcenko works on urban history, race
nude to his possessive eyes. At a certain point the shopkeeper buys relations, Brazilian Modernism and popular culture.

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section header

Long Live my All-time Favorite

Latin American Film!
by Greg Cohen

I’m rarely given to superlatives, especially own indications, were devoid of any order, Maria Magalhães enigmatic Cleopatra)
those of the “all-time favorite” variety. My the action of The Age of the Earth oscil- will meld the stentorian refrains of their
favorite color? Depends on the weather. lates between the cities of Brasília, Rio de voices, the labored intensity of their ges-
My favorite ice cream flavor? Depends Janeiro, and Salvador though, truth be tures, and the opaque mass of their bodies
on what I had for lunch. My favorite Latin told, one cannot properly speak of “action” with a subtly disembodied lighting scheme
American movie? Depends on what hap- in The Age of the Earth, at least not in any and the unpredictable, alternating stasis
pens to be consuming my every thought, conventional dramatic sense. To oversim- and disquietude of the camera, its wide
my every intellectual exercise at the plify with no small measure of violence, lens unwilling to bind itself to the canons
moment. If that moment were now (and it Glauber’s final work recasts the Biblical of landscape, together forming a kind of
is, and may be for weeks, months, pos- Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the suppurating two and a half-hour wound
sibly years to come), said favorite film key of the Third World, and develops the of cinematic extravagance. At last, Glau-
would no doubt be Glauber Rocha’s A peregrinations of each in ever accumulat- ber’s penchant for teleology and totalizing
Idade da Terra (The Age of the Earth). ing conceptual dimensions from one epi- national allegory are no match for the
Completed in 1980 after nearly a decade sode to the next. pure revolutionary force of the transe—the
of tortured gestation and shortly before Over the course of the film’s 150-odd state of trance—he so often indicted in his
the director’s death, The Age of the minutes, Glauber’s four Christs—or Kryz- earlier films. In The Age of the Earth, what
Earth belongs among the most important tos, to adopt the director’s idiosyncratic remains or, more precisely, what emerges
works of cinema of all time, despite (or orthography—also wage intermittent war is an immanent, unresolved, uncontainable
perhaps because of) its virtual anonymity against, and frequently collude with, impurity. More important, Glauber’s last
among cinephiles and film scholars the one John Brahms (Maurício do Valle), an film is less a cinematic object than a work
world over. But then I’ve just managed to imposing, blond-haired, blue-eyed, pot-bel- of pure film philosophy, an example of
contradict myself twice already, having lied schizophrenic who embodies, at once, what French philosopher Gilles Deleuze
bequeathed two superlatives to a single the Gringo capitalist, the Father of Christ, termed a schizoid “image of thought.”
That is to say, it is no longer Glauber
thinking—however brilliantly—through
Glauber Rocha’s last film is less a cinematic object than the medium of his film, as had been the
case with his earlier masterpieces, Black
a work of pure film philosophy. It has the capacity to go God, White Devil (1963) and Land in
on thinking long after the experience of its making. Anguish (1967). Instead, The Age of the
Earth thinks for itself in the most protean
of registers, despite Glauber, and despite
film in the space of a single paragraph. Lucifer in a leisure suit, and the ecstatic whatever pretensions to meaning he may
Surely, this must be yet another effect of European tourist on his first foray into the have had. And it is precisely for this
the film’s greatness. tropics, though without nearly enough reason, that is, for the film’s capacity to
Indeed, I might also venture to call sunscreen. Neither the black, messianic, go on thinking long after the experience
The Age of the Earth the most important evangelizing Kryzto (Antônio Pitanga), nor of its making, long after the death of its
work of Glauber’s entire oeuvre, though the saturnine Iberian Kryzto-Conquistador author, that qualifies The Age of the Earth
I would in no way consider it his best (Tarcísio Meira), nor certainly the fragile, as among the most important films of all
film, if by “best” we mean aesthetically or indecisive, Oedipalized Kryzto-warrior times, Latin American or otherwise.
commercially successful, or for that matter (Geraldo Del Rey), nor even the native
conceptually coherent in any way. Rather, Brazilian Kryzto of “the people” (played, Greg Cohen is Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral
what distinguishes Glauber’s magnum opus mind you, by the unambiguously Cauca- Fellow in the Humanities and Lecturer in Cinema
is precisely all that it refuses to contain, the sian Jece Valadão) will manage to avert and Media Studies, Department of Film and Televi-
subterranean forces it unleashes moment John Brahms’s disaster, though neither sion, University of California, Los Angeles. He
upon burgeoning moment, in convul- will Brahms ever truly succeed at bringing received his Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Lit-
sions of visual and sonic excess. Shot in the Third World to reckon. Rather, all five eratures from Harvard University in June 2008. He
cinemascope and rich, saturated colors, figures, along with the women who serve is currently at work on his first book manuscript,
arrayed across sixteen reels of celluloid as their foils (Norma Bengell’s New Age provisionally titled Latin American Cinema and the
that, according to the Brazilian director’s Eve; Danuza Leão’s corrupt Mary; Ana Spatial Unconscious.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 27
film In latin America

Neither the Sertão nor the Favela

A Look at Brazilian Film
B y De n i l s o n L o p e s

o frame the poetics of the ordinary in terms of were our Godard, then David Neves could well be our Truffaut.
subtlety and delicateness is to propose an antidote both for That would be more praise than criticism.
cynicism and for what I call Neo-Naturalism. Its appearance, Domingos de Oliveira is another 1960s director distanced
at least in Brazilian cinema and literature, has been clearly from Cinema Novo, which might explain his not being highly
identified, ranging from peripheral subjects such as rap to the regarded. He may be the most successful cinematographer of the
film-and-book phenomenon City of God, to the works of Marçal sort of family drama and romantic comedy that both older and
Aquino, Fernando Bonassi, Luiz Ruffato, Marcelo Mirisola and the younger directors try to achieve (Bossa Nova by Bruno Barreto,
first films by Beto Brant. Neo-Naturalism features an aesthetics of 1999; Pequeno Dicionário Amoroso and Amores Possíveis by Sandra
excess, of violence and cruelty, that is considered to be more suited Werneck; Como ser Solteiro no Rio de Janeiro by Rosane Svartman;
to dealing with our times. A Dona da História, 2004, by Daniel Filho).
The contemporary reality is unidimensionalized in a double Another New Cinema director is Carlos Diegues. Having created
commonplace cliché: the fight against terrorism, from a conserva- a more fluid Brazil in Bye Bye Brasil (1979), Diegues has reached, in
tive viewpoint; the opposition to a society of control, from a more Chuvas de Verão (Summer Rains, 1977), another great moment in his
radical viewpoint. At the national level, civil wars, multi-ethnic career. Because of its delicate approach to old age in Rio de Janeiro’s
urban conflicts, and narco-trafficking emerge as themes to represent middle class, it can very well dialogue with O Outro Lado da Rua
an apocalyptic and hopeless barbarism of our times. (The Other Side of the Street, 2004) by Marcos Bernstein, much
Faithful to the weight of Naturalism in Brazilian literary tradi- more successful than Copacabana by Carla Camurati (2000).
tion, public space is represented in the cinema by images of the Noites do Sertão (1984) by Carlos Alberto Prates Correia dilutes
sertão (the arid, inhospitable rugged interior) or the favelas (slums), rural patriarchy with delicateness, a legacy of Guimarães Rosa’s
at least since the outset of the Cinema Novo (New Cinema). The original, a strategy previously used by Carlos Diegues in Joanna
trend continues in much of the Cinema da Retomada (Brazilian Francesa (1973). At the same time, Nunca Fomos Tão Felizes (1984)
Cinema from the second half of the 1990s to nowadays) and has by Murilo Salles was breaking ground in this genre, an alterna-
served as a way to recover visibility abroad, in festivals and with a tive to the Neo-Realism of Wilson de Barros, Chico Botelho and
movie-going public. Alongside this movement, another cinematog- Guilherme de Almeida Prado. Murilo Salles’ earlier movies were
raphy, grounded on a poetics of everyday life, has emerged, which centered in frankly urban homes, loaded with violence and clashing
I shall call the lineage of a lost delicateness. Films like Eu tu eles inhabitants, as best seen in Tata Amaral’s films. This work had an
by Andrucha Waddington position the sertão within the context equivalent in feminine roughness in Ana Carolina’s trilogy (Mar de
of everyday life and intimacy. Without sounding like a nostalgic Rosas, 1979; Das Tripas Coração 1982; and Sonho de Valsa, 1986/7),
Bossa Nova, I think this trend seeks to recover the subtlety that is not to mention the more recent films, such as Durval Discos by
so present in the songs by Chico Buarque and Paulinho da Viola. Anna Muylaert (2003).
For, far from mere escapism from a cruel reality, they translate into Also in the 80s, the Z company released a new generation from
ethical and aesthetic alternatives. Rio Grande do Sul; from the trilogy Verdes Anos (1983) by Giba
From the viewpoint of the modern Brazilian movies, it is impor- Assis Brasil; Me Beija (1984) by Werner Schünemann and Aqueles
tant to remember, in this initial reflection about the ordinariness Dois (1985) by Sérgio Amon, among many other short subjects,
of intimacy, that a long tradition marks the home by the nostalgia and the most talented of its representatives, Jorge Furtado, who has
of colonial spaces, of a lost rural environment. Its latest examples only just recently released a feature film.
are Lavoura Arcaica by Raduan Nassar, adapted to the screen by Delicateness—would it have vanished from the more recent
Luiz Fernando Carvalho, and O Viajante (1998) by Paulo César Brazilian cinematography, except for its presence in documentaries
Saraceni. The motif of the torn-apart home is present in Saraceni’s such as Nós que aqui estamos por vós esperamos by Marcelo Masagão,
great moments, ever since his debut in Porto das Caixas (1965) Edifício Master by Eduardo Coutinho, and Nelson Freire by João Mor-
to A Casa Assassinada (1970), the trilogy under the sign of Lúcio eira Salles? Films such as Dois Córregos (1998/9) and Alma Corsária
Cardoso. The archaic rural world, close to nature and taking place (1992/4) by Carlos Reichenbach, Coração Iluminado (1997/8) by
in another time, contains the rich landscapes shown in São Bernardo Hector Babenco or O Príncipe (2003) by Ugo Giorgetti deserve a
(1971) by Leon Hirszman. There is much lyricism in the account more careful look, beyond the nostalgia that shrouds them.
of the home, regardless of the decadence of rural patriarchy. I hope to have been straightforward in expressing my interest in
Two other works in this genre deserve further analysis. One is the ordinary: I am looking at small things, small dramas, without
that of David Neves, whose debut in Memória de Helena (1969) falling into Naturalism or into allegories such as those present in the
is a unique revisitation of Humberto Mauro, with his short stories revisited and reconstructed families with preciously banal gestures in
about the middle class in Rio de Janeiro in Fulaninha (1984/5) and Luis Humberto Pereira’s photos, or in João Carrascoza’s short stories
Jardim de Alah (1988). Within Modern Cinema, if Glauber Rocha in Dias Raros, or in the works of Michel Laub, Adriana Lisboa and

28 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0

Paloma Vidal. This is neither about perverting the family as in the each ear, she went back to bed to rest again.
work of Nelson Rodrigues, nor about over-privileging representa- When that unique peacefulness penetrated the room, semi-lit by a
tions, but about retrieving family affection in its fragility. Not the dim table lamp, she knew she was dying.
violated, but the sheltered, protected body. She heard her daughters’ voices talking in the next room, in Maria
This journey is just beginning. A search for a poetics of everyday Inês’ room. Then, she could hear a bit less, and felt a dizziness like a
life, one that envisages, at the threshold, the exceptional, the trans- ship in a sea storm. And when the dizziness was gone, and she opened
figuration, the sublime, all the while being aware that these are only her eyes, she smiled because, actually, it was all so simple.
moments—moments that show the ordinary as the real, as in Otací-
lia’s death in Sinfonia em Branco by Adriana Lisboa (2001: 144), Denilson Lopes ( is Professor at the School
which presents everything I have said better and more freely: of Communications at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
and President of the Brazilian Society of Cinema and Audiovisual
Otacília finished eating with her two daughters. She greeted her hus- Studies (SOCINE). He is the author of The Delicateness: Aesthe-
band when he walked in at the end of the day, and asked him about tics, Experience and Landscapes (2007), The Man Who Loved
his meeting at the office, but as soon as he finished replying, she could Young Men and Other Essays (2002), We the Dead: Melan-
no longer remember what she had asked him. cholia and Neo-Baroque (1999), co-editor of Image and Sexual
Having put on two drops of her precious Chanel no.5, one behind Diversity (2004) and editor of The Cinema of the 90’s (2005).

Porr Gentileza shortly after arriving in Rio for the first time,
I long wondered about their origins.
In Porr Gentileza, director Dado Amaral
B y Re x P. N i el s o n
spends a few brief days impersonating the
Prophet Kindness, walking the streets previ-
Brazil has enjoyed a rich and indepen- ously frequented by the prophet, wearing
dent tradition of documentary filmmaking a similar robe, passing out flowers, and
from at least the first decade of the 20th recording on film the reactions of pass-
century; over the past fifteen years, the Such is the case of Porr Gentileza, a ersby. Amaral’s impersonation elicits smiles
country has witnessed a veritable explo- 14-minute documentary directed and pro- and recognition, and in these moments,
sion of documentary production in the duced by Dado Amaral in 2002. The film the director captures various individuals’
national market. In fact, in 2005, almost explores the life of José Datrino, a fascinat- personal memories of their own real-life
one of every three feature-length national ing individual known to most cariocas as encounters with the Prophet Kindness. Unlike
movies released in Brazil were documen- o Profeta Gentileza, the Prophet Kindness a typical biopic, this film offers no fictional-
taries, according to Amir Labaki in The (who always spells “por” with two r’s for ized representations of the prophet’s life but
Documentary Film Makers Handbook emphasis). For nearly thirty years, until his instead emphasizes in a self-reflective way
(New York: Continuum International Pub- death in 1996, the Prophet Kindness lived the imitative nature of the filmmaker’s own
lishing Group, 2006). in Rio de Janeiro preaching a message of actions. In doing so, the film subtly reveals
At home and abroad, Brazilian docu- kindness, love and respect. Every day he that its concern is not so much the details of
mentary filmmakers are garnering well- walked the streets of Rio handing out flow- José Datrino’s biography as it is the legacy
deserved attention and praise. Among the ers and teaching people not to say “muito of the Prophet Kindness in Rio’s popular
beneficiaries of this increased attention obrigado” (I’m obliged) but rather “agrade- imagination. In a cinematic world that so
are the hundreds of documentary curtas cido” (I’m grateful). Instead of saying “por frequently views Rio through the filter of vio-
or short films flourishing in the shadow of favor” (as a favor), he insisted we say lence and poverty, Amaral’s Porr Gentileza
their feature-length cousins. Often experi- “por gentileza” (as a kindness). Often, he reminds us all that a life of kindness need
mental in nature, these films challenge the would stand in the median of busy roads not exist only in memory but can live on
clichéd images and themes of violence, holding a sign: “Gentileza gera gentileza” through our own kind acts.
poverty and corruption that often character- (Kindness begets kindness). Though he was
ize Brazilian film, instead turning to the a humble and somewhat obscure figure, Rex P. Nielson is a doctoral candidate in Portu-
pleasures and pains of autobiography and any visitor to the marvelous city’s main bus guese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University.
daily life. While perhaps lacking the polish terminal is probably already familiar with He recently taught Images of Brazil: Contemporary
of the films of José Padilha and Eduardo the prophet’s best-known legacy: the fifty- Brazilian Cinema (Portuguese 44) at Harvard in the
Coutinho, Brazilian documentary shorts five murals filled with messages of love that Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
nonetheless often express a fresh and inno- he painted on the pilasters of the viaduct
vative approach to Brazil’s realities that, between Caju and the Rodoviária Novo Amaral’s film can be viewed online, along with
in its own right, serves to revitalize the Rio. On a personal note, I confess that hav- many other varied and interesting short films, at the
national cinematic idiom. ing come across these wonderful murals website:

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 29
film In latin America

This is an overview of the Favela da Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro. Life in the favela has been a frequent theme in traditional Brazilian cinema,
but new Brazilian film experiments with a great variety of themes and experiences.

30 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 p h o t o g r ap h b y W al t e r M es q ui t a / V iva F avela


Coconut Milk in Coca-Cola Bottles

Brazilian Cinema through North American Lenses
B y C l é m e n ce J o u ë t - P a s t r é

ommon knowledge has it that virtually any movie, once Brazilian Cinema (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995),
removed from its original cultural context of production and “While on one level Cinema Novo remained faithful to its initial
reception, might be either misunderstood and misperceived project—to present a progressive and critical vision of Brazilian
or re-interpreted and re-signified. Likewise, we may agree that society—on another, its political strategies and aesthetic options
national cinemas seek to define, challenge, and reshape national were profoundly inflected by political events.” Following the steps
identities. For Brazilians (me included), it is important to break of critics such as Ismail Xavier (Allegories of Underdevelopment: Aes-
out of our comfort zone to observe how others perceive us, even thetics and Politics in Modern Brazilian Cinema, University of Min-
if through a reflection of a distorted mirror, to help us examine nesota Press, 1997), Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw (Popular
our collective identities. For Americans, it is interesting to reflect Cinema in Brazil, 1930- 2001, Manchester University Press, 2004),
upon the type of foreign movies that are successful and also those and Stam and Johnson (1979, 1995), we could divide the Cinema
that are unsuccessful in the United States, to try to understand the Novo movement into roughly three phases. The main tenets of
rationale for their failure or success. Such outcomes are obviously the first phase – from 1960 to 1964 – are encapsulated in Glau-
often revealing of cultural values and beliefs. ber Rocha’s 1965 manifesto, An Aesthetics of Hunger. Rocha and
Brazilian cinema has a long tradition of struggling to repre- other Cinema Novo directors, including Nelson Pereira dos Santos
sent its multicultural and multiethnic population on the screen. and Ruy Guerra, viewed filmmaking as a political act. Their films
Undoubtedly, one of the thorniest issues is how to present and focused on violence, hunger, and the destitute populations of the
create a dialogue with moviegoers about the daily suffering and sertão (backlands) and the favelas (slums). Low-budget, often made
brutality endured by a significant part of the country’s popula- in black and white with a hand-held camera, and preferably with
tion. There is, however, no question that Brazilian cinema raises non-professional actors, movies from this phase include Deus e o
other kinds of interesting discussions that go beyond the important diabo na terra do sol (Black God, White Devil, 1964) by Glauber
question of denouncing extreme poverty and oppression. In this Rocha; Os Fuzis (The Guns, 1964), by Ruy Guerra; and Vidas Secas
short essay, I briefly analyze how U.S. scholars perceive Brazil- (Barren Lives, 1963), by Nelson Pereira dos Santos.
ian cinematic culture through their choice
of movies presented in a variety of courses
that do not necessarily focus on Brazil. More
How do others perceive us Brazilians through film?
specifically, I looked at nearly fifty course This article takes a look at how U.S. scholars select
syllabi from colleges all over the country that
include Brazilian cinema in some fashion Brazilian movies for a wide variety of courses.
and divided them into four categories. The
first one comprises roughly 35% of the corpus in courses that range Curiously enough, very few syllabi propose to screen entire films
from Women’s to Urban Studies. In general, these courses screen from the first phase of Cinema Novo. Many courses include only a
just one, or at most two, Brazilian movies, accompanied by a couple selection of clips, most likely featuring Vidas Secas and Deus e o diabo
of articles that might focus on themes that go beyond Brazilian na terra do sol. These movies are certainly superb in many ways,
reality, such as “violence in the megalopolis.” The second category including their cinematic approach to translating Brazilian reality
includes about 30% of the total and comprises course syllabi that for the screen. Their aesthetic, however, differs radically from the
focus on Latin America. The tendency is to offer at least a whole action-packed style to which the U.S. audience, especially college
unit dedicated to the study of Brazilian cinema. Courses in the third students, is accustomed. Therefore, professors might have chosen to
category, almost 30%, are entirely dedicated to the study of Brazil- introduce Cinema Novo in homeopathic dosage, so students might
ian cinematic productions. The fourth category, of less than 10%, become interested without being overwhelmed by long movies that
includes movies from several Portuguese-speaking countries. pertain to a very different cinematic tradition.
Not surprisingly, even a brief examination of our corpus reveals The second phase of Cinema Novo has as its landmark the
a heavy accent on Cinema Novo (New Cinema), the Brazilian film infamous 1964 military coup, which had a profound impact on
movement celebrated by intellectuals all over the world. The move- Brazilian society. In 1968 the third phase began, when a coup
ment developed in Brazil in the early 1960s and was best known within the coup almost completely banished civil rights in Brazil.
for the quite varied work of filmmakers such as Nelson Pereira dos During the second phase, filmmakers had to deal with their dismay
Santos, Glauber Rocha, Ruy Guerra, Carlos Diegues and Joaquim over the disastrous authoritarian regime. The filmmakers sought
Pedro de Andrade. One could, however, cleverly ask: “Okay, but to explore the reasons behind the sudden squashing of the left
what kind of Cinema Novo is shown to American students”? This and progressive forces in Brazil. Their disenchantment led them
movement lasted for more than a decade and, predictably, is quite to produce movies that revealed their despair through characters
heterogeneous. As Robert Stam and Randal Johnson observe in adrift, hopelessly searching for answers. Terra em Transe (Land in

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 31
film In latin America

Anguish, 1967) by Glauber Rocha and Fome ship restrictions and persecuted, imprisoned, tainment, with fiesta, and carnival to entice
de Amor (Hunger for Love, 1968) by Nel- tortured, killed, or exiled left-wing individu- the public” (Film Encyclopedia, 2008,
son Pereira dos Santos are perfect examples als from all walks of life, including hundred “Brazil Cannibalism and Tropicalism” in
of movies full of disillusionment and lack of intellectuals. Cinema Novo directors who
of hope. In this bitter new phase, Cinema remained in the country chose to overcome dia/Academy-Awards-Crime-Films/Brazil-
Novo directors also had to face the fact that, censorship by resorting to tropicalista strate- CANNIBALISM-AND-TROPICALISM.
although critically acclaimed, their movies gies. Tropicalismo was an artistic movement html; retrieved in May 2009). Tropicalism
did not attract the popular audiences with from the 1960s that encompassed all sorts has its roots in the 1920s and, more specifi-
whom they wanted to dialogue. The reac- of artistic manifestations including poetry, cally, in the ideas of Oswald de Andrade,
tion to this failure was the production of music, theater and, of course, film. Briefly who proposed a strategy of cultural anti-
films imbued with social criticism but with put, it is a “reaction to the economically imperialism, in which foreign cultures from
popular appeal that would enable them ultramodern but ideologically ultraconser- the so-called developed countries should
to perform well at the box office (Xavier, vative neoliberal modernization imposed by neither be rejected nor naively accepted.
1997). Leon Hirszman’s Garota de Ipanema the military. Tropicalism rendered patriar- Instead they should be devoured, digested,
(The Girl from Ipanema), released in color chal, traditional cultures anachronistic recycled and mixed with local cultures to
in 1967, was the first Cinema Novo movie using the most advanced or fashionable produce new cultural paradigms.
to experiment with this strategy. idioms and techniques in the world, thus Como era gostoso o meu francês (How
The third phase of Cinema Novo was producing an allegory of Brazil that exposed Tasty Was My Little Frenchman, 1971) by
marked by the events of 1968, perhaps one a real historical abyss, a junction of different Nelson Pereira dos Santos is one of best
of the darkest years in Brazil’s recent history. stages of capitalist development. Tropical- known movies of the third phase of Cin-
The military implemented greater censor- ism’s formula mixed reflection with enter- ema Novo and also the favorite in course
syllabi dealing with Brazilian film in U.S.
universities. Several hypotheses explain the
popularity of this movie in the classroom
setting. Since it was made to reach out to a
Edifício Master: one view large audience, it is one of the most palat-
able examples of Cinema Novo films, and
b y B r u n o C a r va lh o U.S. students may find Como era gostoso o
meu francês more approachable than the
more hermetic movies from the first phase.
Some movies seem to travel better than others. From the point of view of teaching a Furthermore, the powerful dark-comedy
class on Brazilian cinema in a U.S. university to students with a wide range of back- is full of allusions to historical events.
grounds, it is never clear how they will interpret the tone of a scene or what jokes Thus, it could serve as a means to discuss
and references will get lost in translation. In the case of Eduardo Coutinho’s Edifício Brazilian history and artistic movements,
Master (2002), it was as if certain students had seen a different film altogether. The including Portuguese colonization, the
documentary consists of interviews with the residents of a crowded building in Copa- attempts by France to seize Brazil, canni-
cabana: middle-aged couples, a prostitute, and a former soccer player, among others, balism as a real indigenous practice and as
tell their stories, dreams, and frustrations. Coutinho is one of those rare directors able an artistic-political concept. Ironically, the
to treat his subjects as neither heroes nor villains: he does not look at them from above film became renowned through the world
or below, aware that his cameras can only capture the truth of a person’s reaction to in large part because its nudity content
being filmed. led to its banishment from the Cannes
Edifício Master, then, refrains from editorial judgments, even when we discover film festival. In this sense, the movie also
holes in a story, or have enough reason to suspect embellishments. The only sound- offers the option of examining whether
track is provided by singing, which Coutinho tends to encourage his interviewees to and how nudity can be used in film in a
do. Yet to a fraction of my class, the film was sensationalist and exploitative. Having non-exploitative manner.
seen it several times and being familiar with the critical reception, I was surprised by Another favorite in course syllabi is
their response. The lesson plan was tossed, students spent over an hour arguing the Cidade de Deus (City of God, 2002) by
point back and forth, and I do not think I have learned so much in a classroom as Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. Briefly,
I did then. I saw the movie again, as someone who had never spent time in Brazil this movie portrays the birth of a slum in
or Latin America. Perhaps people do not open up so easily to a stranger elsewhere, Rio de Janeiro and the escalation of crime,
unless prodded by the promise of appearing on television? A believer in the universal violence, and drug-dealing over two decades
appeal of Coutinho’s documentaries, I had to concede there can be such a thing as in that environment. It is striking that the
culture shock. fascination with the lives of the have-nots
living in favelas has remained alive more
Bruno Carvalho received his Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. than forty years after the publication of
He is an Assistant Professor at Princeton’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and An Aesthetics of Hunger, along with its
Cultures. celebrated line, “the most noble cultural

32 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0

manifestation of hunger is violence.” Yet In most courses pertaining to the first in Coca-Cola bottles”? Its main purpose is
the way in which the gloomiest sides of category of syllabi and even in some sur- to explore Brazilian cinematic representa-
Brazilian life are depicted on the screen has vey courses about Latin American cin- tions through American lenses. This ques-
drastically changed since the 1960s. Cidade ema, which belong to the second category, tion naturally leads to a second one: “Is it
de Deus presents violence in a decontextual- Cidade de Deus tends to be selected as the possible, for an American college student,
ized manner, without any reference to the only movie representing Brazil. One won- to use Brazilian lenses to analyze Brazilian
origins of this social plague or any discussion ders whether its use simply reinforces the movies”? Finally, the third question-- “Is it
about its systemic nature. The plot revolves stereotype of violence in large Brazilian beneficial”? – invites the syllabus designer
around the young drug-dealers’ tragic and cities. I hope, however, that it serves as a to meditate about the possible outcomes
short lives, but there is no discussion on how platform to discuss larger social issues and of imposing Brazilian lenses on American
the drug problem permeates different lay- different modes of representing violence on students. I believe that there is no single
ers of the society and goes well beyond the the screen. This is a serious issue, insofar as answer to these questions. All depends on
favelas. The favela is depicted as completely students often form their first impressions the context, which is inevitably constantly
detached from the urban environment; its of politics, culture and even geography from in flux.
inhabitants are portrayed as gangsters who movies, whether seen in a theatre or a class-
kill each other without purpose. The frantic room context. Clémence Jouët-Pastré directs the Por-
rhythm of Cidade de Deus, with guns shoot- The choice of films to go on a syllabus is tuguese Language Program at Harvard
ing in the background, knives and blades significant because it is not random. When and the Harvard Summer Program in Rio.
shining in the sun, and corpses everywhere, designing a course on Brazilian cinema or Every spring she offers a writing-intensive
leaves the audience breathless. Brazilian even a short unit about it, several ques- course on Brazilian cinema that aims at
critic Ivana Bentes describes the movie as tions come to mind. As a parody of Glau- introducing students to cinematic traditions
a parody of Rocha, describing it as “shift- ber Rocha’s dilemma (cited in Johnson and in Brazil, as well as to Brazilian culture,
ing from the ‘aesthetics’ to the ‘cosmetics of Stam 1965: 57), the first question reads: stylistics, language variation, and academic
hunger’ […]” (2005: 84). “Should we ‘serve’ students coconut milk Portuguese.

Edifício Master: another view

by Julie Duncan

For someone like me, who knows the names of fewer than half the film crew seems a bit incredulous about her adventures in the
the people who live in her dormitory, it was all too easy to Land of the Rising Sun. Then there’s Renata, “number one in Bra-
imagine living in Edifício Master, the twelve-story Copacabana zil” by her own estimate, who speaks adoringly of her 42-year-old
apartment building featured in Eduardo Coutinho’s 2002 docu- boyfriend in the States; then there’s Luiz, who suspects that his
mentary of the same name. Most of its residents, members of late adoptive father was his real father; Henrique, who met Frank
Brazil’s lower-middle-class, have lived there for years—some for Sinatra on the day the astronauts came back from the moon; Ales-
their entire lives—yet they seem barely to know each other. Some sandra, the proud prostitute who swears her daughter will find a
of the newer residents complain about the lack of community, better path. These fascinating characters certainly don’t fit the ste-
insisting no one would realize for weeks if someone died while reotype of Brazilians concerned only with samba and sunshine. A
locked away in his apartment. One woman told me that she went Brazilian heterogeneity, a “complicatedness,” goes beyond simple
four months knowing nothing about the young girl who lived in racial diversity. It is a diversity of experience, making Brazil a
the apartment above her beyond what she heard through the place where any story can and does take place.
vent—and that she could not bring herself to say hello when she The documentary ends with a long scene showing the apart-
finally saw the girl in the elevator. Extended shots of dark, empty ments from the outside at nighttime. Each time a resident passes
hallways confirm the sense of loneliness and isolation even amid by the window, we get a short glimpse into his or her life—only a
a beautiful and bustling city. glimpse before s/he walks away and returns to anonymity. In the
However, in his interviews with the residents of Edifício Master, quiet darkness, as the residents lock their doors for the night, the
Coutinho shows them to be far from curmudgeonly misanthropes, feeling of isolation is intensified. For me, the message was very
their tiny apartments not hermitages but bastions of individuality. clear, and it is one I’ll never forget: everyone, no matter how hum-
This documentary made me see my environment in a different ble, has a story to tell—but you’ll never hear it if you don’t ask.
way. The residents’ stories surprise us at every turn in the film.
There is Paulo, who played and coached soccer around the world Julie Duncan is a native of Burlington, Kentucky, and graduated from Har-
until a spontaneous outburst of nudity after a defeat cost him his vard College with a degree in History and Science this June. She will attend
job. There is Suze, who happily performs a Japanese ballad when Yale Law School in the fall.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 33
New Argentine Cinema p. 34
Memory, Identity and Film p. 38
The Three Lives of Fernando Solanas p. 42
Interview with Lita Stantic p. 44

This section examines four different perspectives on

post-dictatorship Argentine film. Whether in recent films
by children of the victims or the compelling work of
Fernando Solanas, history is a powerful protagonist.

New Argentine Cinema

The People’s Presence
B y G o n z a l o Ag u i l a r

hroughout the year 2004, while In retrospect, the film seems prophetic. In its with the people. Thus, the film-manifesto
I was finishing my book Otros mun- final scenes, it not only invokes the people La hora de los hornos (“The Hour of the
dos on New Argentine Cinema, I as a subject of history, but also predicts their Furnaces”), with its forceful arguments and
kept thinking both about recent return to full glory. Once the fiction that instrumental use of images to inspire direct
film productions and the turmoil caused by had been constructed by the Peronist gov- action, expounded the temporary necessity
the Peronist government in the 1990s. In ernment of Carlos Menem in the 90s dis- to do away with all forms of fiction. Grupo
the chapter on politics, “Adiós al pueblo,” sipated, the people returned to the forefront Cine Liberación considered the category of
(“Goodbye to the people”), I contended to participate actively in decision-making. fiction as a cheap disguise and a deviation,
that unlike in the Argentine films made in In a series of quite transparent references unmasked by essay-like narration. After
the 60s to the 80s, one cannot talk about to the world of the 60s (the title evokes the several works of fiction, with Memoria del
“the people” in New Argentine Film, under- well-known Cuban film Memories of Under- saqueo, Solanas returned to the language of
standing “pueblo” (people) in its very Latin development by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea; the the physical—the use of the human body—
American sense of “common folk” or “the film in general, together with La hora de los that had characterized his first film with its
masses.” People were no longer active hornos, shares its documentary lens). Memo- nervous movement of the camera in the
political subjects, I asserted. At one time, ria del saqueo restores the idea of politics in middle of the street (what a witness in dan-
the people had symbolized the gateway to film because it assumes the presence of the ger would see) and with shots of agitated
liberation, but later—whether in discourse people (the appearance of many of them in and vociferous bodies trying to unmask
or in deed—the people became part of a the background) as a central conceptual cat- the power and the falseness of the image.
consensus (no longer antagonistic) within a egory of the film. All this is to confess that He depicts the choreography of multitudes
reality that was increasingly more statistical the central theme of my book—that people whose enthusiasm and political objectives
and less political—or at least, that’s what I were passé in both film and politics—was transformed them into el pueblo, hence into
thought back then. The people, I wrote at rendered obsolete or at least limited after protagonists of history.
the time, were a mere vehicle for the state’s the events stemming from the economic However, the differences between the
re-absorption of politics through bureau- crisis in 2001. In that crisis, even middle- films from the early 90s and those of the
cracy and police power. class people were reduced to poverty, and 60s are evident; the urgency of “the hour”
As I was putting the finishing touches on the so-called obsolete “pueblo” mobilized in is replaced by the retrospective vision of the
my book, I took frequent breaks to view the unimagined, creative and political ways. “memories” which, with a touch of nostalgia,
televised march to the Plaza de Mayo —a In the most political Latin American permeates almost all the documentary pro-
so-called popular mobilization— that had film of the 60s—from Santiago Álvarez ductions of recent years. In any case, the fact
been organized by the new Peronist govern- to Patricio Guzmán, from Jorge Sanjinés is that Solanas returned the great tradition
ment. Of all the films that I analyzed in my to the Grupo Cine Liberación– the docu- in which masses of people burst upon the
book, the film from which I felt the most mentary image had appeared as the appro- silver screen, and that film, in turn, creates
distanced was Fernando Solanas’ Memoria priate means through which to represent, an image of the people. The image in trance,
del saqueo (2004) (“Memories of Looting”). raise political consciousness of and interact through that image the multitudes pass to

34 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0
section header

This image was made during the production of El bonaerense.

acquire a visible form in the choreography of of Pablo Trapero: in El bonaerense (a film emptiness. Unlike the famous poster for
bodies that fills up the big screen, that goes about a policeman nicknamed Zapa in Bue- The Hour of the Furnaces, showing close-ups
beyond the screen and shatters it. nos Aires Province), the protagonist comes of faces distorted by shouting, the scenes
Movies from the 90s often questioned upon a piquetero march, but simply goes his in Silvia Prieto register apathetic or inex-
the discrepancies between the politics of own way, paying no attention to this mass pressive faces. We go from the world of the
action and politics in the form of strategic protest that blocks the road. It is as if the masculine to a feminine multitude, from
thinking, and one of the ways these films El bonaerense had encountered a fragment social demands to demands for life, from
dealt with the issue of politics was to leave of Memoria del saqueo, but had not fallen the audacity of popular outcry, expressed
images empty through several means. The under its spell. In Martín Rejtman’s Silvia through shouts that fill up the screen, to
most extreme example of this emptying Prieto, a group of product promoters —the emptiness and dispossession as elemental
process was that of Lisandro Alonso en La ladies who hand out free samples—mobilize starting points. Rather than seeing politics
libertad (2001): in this film, there is almost to demand justice for a colleague who has as an external fact that sustains the image,
never more than one person in sight, and been killed in a work accident. But while these films—negating the category that
from the very beginning, the concept of in political film, the multitudes fill up and dominated Argentine film from the 60s
freedom and the image of people appear burst forth from the screen, in Rejtman’s to the 80s—introduce the concept of the
as a dichotomy. Another strategy is that film, the march of the crowd is marked by political through images, as a force in and

p h o t o g r ap h c o u r t es y o f g o nzal o a g uila r fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 35

film In latin America

of itself and as an open question.

The transition from the masculine to
the feminine (since Gustave Le Bonat at the
end of the 19th century, multitudes have
been associated with the feminine while the
pueblo—the historical masses—have been
associated with the masculine) is demon-
strated most visibly by Enrique Bellande’s
Ciudad de María (City of Maria), in which
the life of the modern manufacturing city of
San Nicolás, sustained for and by the labor
of workers, is transformed in the 90s into
the religious capital of the Virgin, with its
legion of female believers and devotees who
have performed another miracle. In addi-
tion to the appearance of the Virgin, the
miracle is that the pilgrimages and tourism
by the faithful have changed the economy of
the city so that it revolves around religious
tourism. The substitution of the believer for
the worker, of the consumer for the citizen,
demonstrates the decline of political belief
as the central factor in the choreography of
masses. Moreover, the very body of woman
becomes inserted into the image, bringing
an irreversible and complex link between the
public and the private that will displace those
choreographies of public space of politically
militant films through this complex umbrella
of concepts under which the public and pri-
vate have to be constantly redefined.
A diagnosis for changing times, empti-
ness, however, is a negation of the political
that allows the interpretation of politics as
impossibility, deficiency and even disorien-
tation (a position that in any case does not
cease to be powerful if one thinks of it as a
rejection of identity or political demands to
which films were subject in Argentina for
a long period). However, in this instance,
nothingness replaces the people because the
public scenario in which the actors operate,
as well as the very concept of pueblo, have
been thrust into crisis. Instead of relying
on conventional techniques of making the
people visible (they are just outside and will
burst upon the screen), these more recent
films take a tiny detail such as a fingerprint
or a clue as their starting point. In this man-
ner, they create connections between the
bodies (choreographies) and identities that
are never perceived as stable. The community
will slowly become visible, abolishing all
exteriority (Nicolás Prividera’s M and Mar-
tín Rejtman’s Copacabana). In the process of
creating community from fragmented parts,
from top to bottom: Scenes from La Libertad, El bonaerense and M an emptiness is always created as well. It is

36 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 p h o t o g r ap h C o u r t es y o f G o nzal o A g uila r


precisely in this twilight between commu- cise way: not on the shoulders, but by his “report” about the portrayed community.
nity and emptiness that I believe we ought side, as an objective witness that at the After first traveling through the fair, the film
to think of how the political is portrayed in same time is an extension of his body. The focuses on a series of dances that shine in
new Argentine film. spectator accompanies this body through- their own right. The bodies registered by
In M, director Nicolás Prividera investi- out the investigative journey through the the camera move with coordination and
gates the events surrounding the disappear- camera, which follows it in an obsessively grace throughout the entire course of the
ance of his mother and records the changes close fashion and, at times, even allows the film, even in a meeting of the the bosses
taking place in the sphere of politics (or at body’s breathing to be felt. Indeed, several in which organization co-exists with argu-
least, in the politics of memory). How can of the documentaries about militancy and ment. The Bolivian community exists
one penetrate the state so that it will have to the disappeared in Argentina stage a body, camouflaged in a city that is totally indiffer-
tell the truth? This seems to be the question rather than a scene. Many are ghostlike and ent to its existence (as underscored by Rejt-
that characterizes the first investigations of Prividera manages to show them as such, for man’s exceptional urban perspectives), but it
the protagonist (the director himself ). The example, in the insipid speech in a meet- is not because of this that the community is
regime of visibility is expressed in a poster ing at his mother’s workplace— a meeting weakened and abandons its secret plot. Of
shown time and again throughout the of neighborhood militants around a table course, the scene at the textile factory leads
film, displaying the words of a declaration under the displayed sign with the motto one to understand—without judging—
by Jorge Zorreguieta, the former head of “compañeros” (comrades). The many (the that the choreography of work is linked to
the agricultural agency INTA, where Priv- collective, the community) cannot help dis- that of the fiesta, but this inference is less
idera’s mother worked at the time she was playing the fissure that makes any choreog- important than the director’s decision to
kidnapped and disappeared. In the poster, raphy impossible. link his obsession with formality with that
the man is simply quoted as saying that he In contrast to this temporal and intellec- of the foreigners he portrays. Here are two
had “nothing to do with” the disappearance tual out-of-phase quality that M explores is unrelated orders that do not mix, and their
of the filmaker’s mother, Marta Sierra. The Copacabana, one of the more energetic films rhythms are constantly present throughout
phrase is not only a denial of responsibility marked by collective choreography. Made as the film: the eye of the director upon the
in the case but also forbids seeing, as “ver” a television documentary to illustrate the lives of his subjects, neither surrendering to
in Spanish forms a pun that plays with see- preparations for the celebrations for the Vir- the other.
ing and doing. In total contradiction to this gen of Copacabana by the Bolivian commu- This encounter between the Bolivian
mandate, Prividera uses film to see more, to nity in Buenos Aires, the final scene occurs community and the most modernist of
see everything that is possible to see, though along the border and in customs, when the New Argentine Film directors (also the
not exactly the truth, but the ways in which Bolivian immigrants entering into Argen- involved son of a disappeared woman, also
individuals have processed the past into a tina are being checked by the border guards. the actor-director who rejects any gesture of
regime of fiction that consists of repressing The entry into a foreign country is the entry sentimental identification) is what produces
the intolerable. In cinematographic terms, into invisibility that Rejtman’s documentary the political. No longer—as happened and
the greatest contribution of this film is in its proposes to make visible. Some critics see happens in Solanas’ films—are the many
use of the body, a héxis as Bourdieu would in the film a tension between the modern constituted as subject through the category
say, that “carries” the camera in a very pre- asceticism of Rejtman’s camera and the “people.” Rather, politics results from a few
who do not take orders from anyone except
in the context of the fragile community in
which they express themselves, constantly
pushing against the threshold that separates
Algunas películas them from the great unknown emptiness.
As separate entities, they do not connect the
image with politics. However, they do make
P o r D a n i el S a m p e r P i z a n o
us ask about the very possibility of politics
¿Mi película favorita del cine español? Dos: “La escopeta nacional”, de Luis García when certain traditional categories—like
Berlanga, un delicioso y divertido fresco de personajes representativos de la España that of the people—no longer are dynamic
tardo-franquista, estrenada en 1977. Franco había muerto dos años antes. Y “Volver” or effective.
(2006), de Pedro Almodóvar, con la mirada zarzuelera que a veces tiene la cultura
hispánica sobre la muerte. Gonzalo Aguilar is a professor at the Uni-
En cuanto a las latinoamericanas, disfruté varias de las clásicas de Cantinflas versidad de Buenos Aires. He is author of
(“Si yo fuera diputado”, “El Siete machos”, “El señor fotógrafo”, “Ni sangre ni arena”), Poesía concreta brasileña: las vanguardias
me gustó mucho “Doña Flor y sus dos maridos” (brasileña, 1976, de Bruno Barreto) y en la encrucijada modernista (translated
estoy encantado con el cine argentino de los últimos años, en especial las películas de to Portuguese) and Otros mundos (Un
Carlos Sorín (“Historias mínimas”, “Bombón, El Perro”) y las de Juan José Campanella ensayo sobre el nuevo cine argentino),
(“Luna de Avellaneda”, “El hijo de la novia”). translated in English as Other Worlds:
New Argentine Film (New York: Palgrave
Daniel Samper Pizano, columnista, El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia -Macmillan, 2008).

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 37
film In latin America

Memory, Identity and Film

Blending Past and Present
By Ana Amado

he children of the victims of dic- 70s in Argentina. That decade witnessed a cism. Distancing themselves from inher-
tatorial terror in the 1970s in Argen- surge in collective and social forces; neither ited discourses, each film tries to invent a
tina have used a variety of language actions nor ideas could be linked to indi- way of supporting its arguments about what
and poetics to demand justice for their vidual agents. Representations fostered epic is reasonable or irrational, what is sensible
parents’ executioners. At the same time, tales—those concerning a heroic guerrilla or resolutely subversive in the review of the
they use these diverse expressions as a form were the mainstay, with Che Guevara as history of the period of the dictatorships.
of memorial tribute. Film possesses the nar- icon of the generalized revolutionary dis- And in this review and invention of past
rative potential to translate the “mournful course about armed struggle, while later, scenes that are imagined in various forms,
memories” of history and to achieve “mag- “post-history” documentary films bring the children frame the idea of generations as
nificent mourning,” in the optimistic vision the individual to illustrate a tragic story– a narrative and temporal construct (as well
of French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Sev- “post-history” in the sense that it is told as a biological one) of genealogy, as a form
eral recent Argentine films took their vital from the perspective of the present in which of resistance to their legacies and, finally, as
energy from this process, as children of the everything seems to have been already told. a formal operation of timelessness.
victims dedicated themselves to the task of Today, the revolutionary actions of the par- The various films are about the absent
reviewing the past. ents are reconstructed through an aesthetic father or mother, although in the process of
Since the mid-90s, these creative men and act on the part of their children, who por- remembering, the direct or deflected com-
women have been distilling their testimo- tray them as heroic subjects seen through plaint about the parent’s priorities inevitably
nies through heterogenous narratives based their own narration. Nevertheless, they are appears. The question becomes why the par-
on a mix of references, a variety of voices, resistant to the type of relatively idyllic rep- ent followed the path of desire—that of the
an accumulation of knowledge. Audiovisual resentation that characterized documenta- revolutionary cause, even though death was
material is perhaps the most frequently used ries from the earlier generation. one of the possible consequences—instead
supporting technique, with new combina- In the late 90s and the first years of this of guaranteeing his or her presence to the
tions and unexpected constructions of ways century, a series of testimonial documenta- children. The viewer thus catches a glimpse
of creating private biography through sto- ries register a critical or self-critical stance of an ambivalent image hovering between
ries with strong historic and narrative impli- by former political militants and guerrillas, an epic profile of parents who are protago-
cations. And this decision to use film (and who revisit their actions in the 70s with the nists in a collective historical endeavor and
theatre) as a form of processing one’s own more structured language of politics as an at the same time deserters in the sphere of
past is what distinguishes this generations institution. A similar tendency can be found private emotions.
of young adults—generally between 25 and in testimonial literature. In contrast, the At the same time, the very existence of
35 years old—sons and daughters of the voices in the documentaries by the children the orphans (or bereaved familiars) is pre-
victims or the survivors of the repression of recreate the childhood memories filled with cisely the proof that we could call unique,
the 70s. These young men and women are the violence of kidnappings, absences, death that is, symptomatic, of the traumatic way
filmmakers, video producers and artists who and images in which the daily perception of in which politics intertwines with the lan-
follow the international growing trend of threats seems to be associated precisely with guages of intimacy and of experience. An
the last decade to make documentaries that the language of politics. unquestionable example is Rodolfo Walsh’s
explore issues of memory and identity. Each film offers direct or indirect ways of “Carta a mis amigos,” a mix of accusation
In the group of documentaries dedicated revisiting the actions and political discourse and personal testimony in which Walsh
to the consequences of the dictatorship, of the previous generation. The filmmakers describes how and why his daughter Victo-
films made by the children of the victims can elect to remain at the margin of the ria, whom he calls “Vicky,” was assassinated
and survivors have a very particular role, political arguments that led their parents to by the Army in 1977, as he illuminates the
focusing on history to find a voice and a sacrifice their lives in order to concentrate “official” version of the events–a sketchy
generational space in the context of the on the failed circuits of their own wounded soldier’s report–from the perspective of the
present debates about the 60s and 70s in memories with the help of a family inte- intimacy of the father-daughter relation-
Argentina. Disregarding the contemporary grated by their generational and vocational ship. “I have witnessed the scene with her
public discourse, the younger generation peers. The polemical film Los rubios (2003) eyes,” writes Walsh soon after his daugh-
has chosen the discourse of the emotions by Albertina Carri is one example of this ter’s death, exchanging time and place with
instead of the strident political pronounce- type of film. Other films such as M, by Vicky, within the logic of political discourse
ments that characterized their parents’ gen- Nicolás Prividera (2007) or Encontrando brought to maximum tension through the
eration, as evident in the documentary films a Víctor by Natalia Bruchstein (2005), intimacy of death.
made in the 60s and in the first half of the among others, voice quite merciless criti- María Inés Roqué’s Papá Iván and Alber-

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section header

Disappearance is a recurring theme, as seen here in M.

tina Carri’s Los rubios are two films con- and dependency regarding the filmmakers’ expressed through the use of graphics in
structed around the quarrel with a father’s roots and legacies, which end in an ambigu- the form of subtitles, whether used to iden-
ghost. Their formal operations of disasso- ous stance towards the political choices of tify the convened witness—my mother, my
ciation and fragmentation give the films a their parents and their participation in this father’s comrade, etc.—or to underscore the
certain aesthetic modernity, although, para- violent history in which the children, ulti- meaning of the spoken word. In Los rubios,
doxically, they reject the all-encompassing mately, became victims. The autonomy has there is a dual presence, that of Carri as nar-
figures of political modernity in which their its formal expression in the use of the first rator and that of the actress who plays her;
parents participated in the 60s and 70s person, in the narrative “I” emphasized in M , the most recent film in this genre,
through their belief in revolution. through sight and sound, the body and voice director Nicolás Prividera plays the role of
These representations can be inter- anchored in the presence of the author/nar- the investigator who becomes increasingly
preted as signs of simultaneous autonomy rator/ protagonist. This autonomy is also enraged because of the lack of answers in his

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film In latin America

quest to find out the truth behind the disap- carry out one of the historian’s paradoxical A noteworthy play now being per-
pearance of his mother. Narrative decisions tasks, which French philosopher Michel de formed is Mi vida después (My Life After-
seem to distort the axiom of French literary Certeau describes as “the staging of a popu- wards), which brings together characters
theorist Roland Barthes about the tendency lation of dead people” (1993:62). Through from the new generation to express their
to gag the “I,” or the option of silence to images, texts or testimonies, literally and autobiographical and testimonial “I.” From
narrate history (historic narrative is in the metaphorically, characters, ideas, places, this starting point, the play forms part of
third person; as Barthes pointed out, “No events, situations and values are resuscitated the universal tendency to transform the
one is there to make the statement”). within a historic gallery designed by the discourse of experience into artistic work.
On the other hand, dependency is narrators and populated by a multiplicity of Personal history is converted into the direct
revealed in the attachment to origins, in named portraits: the ghosts of the 70s. revelation of collective history. Instead of
the resurrection of an absent subject that in The language of theatre has operated in representing characters imagined by an
some cases is portrayed or emerges fitfully; a similar fashion. On the local stage, the author, the characters play themselves and
an extreme example of this elision is found first was Teatro por la Identidad (Identity tell their own stories and those of their
in Los rubios, in which throughout the entire Theatre) which in the past decade has pre- parents. Presented as the last link in the
movie no image replaces the emptiness of sented a cycle of plays destined to support Biodramas cycle conceived by theatre pro-
absence. Or the subject is evoked (invoked, from the realm of creativity the strategy of ducer Vivi Tellas within the government-
narrated, explained) by a series of witnesses the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo sponsored space of the San Martín Theatre
that replace the absent (dead) person who is to find and identify the young people who in Buenos Aires, this work responds to the
unable to testify. Precisely on this point, that were whisked off as babies from concentra- idea of a cycle precisely to make room for
of the dead witness, the stories of the orphans tion camps by the 1976 dictatorship. stories from real life.

Three of my favorite films

B y J av i e r C o r r a le s

In my course on Latin American politics at to superb portrayal of the political needs is even a quick scene in which Eva’s fash-
Amherst, I invariably cover challenges to of populism. Eva needs to work with both ion designer and confidant compares the
democracy such as populism, authoritari- ideological extremists and the military, and plight of the descamisados to that of gays.
anism, and the less conventional topic of these groups need to collaborate with Eva, This scene might be a bit ahistorical, but it
heteronormativity. Many films can be used while hoping to undermine her. The movie makes for excellent discussion of the issues
to address these topics, but my favorites also shows the struggles within Peronism, that unite and separate non-dominant
are: Eva Perón, O Ano em Que Meus Pais not just with its outside enemies. A power- groups.
Saíram de Férias and XXY. ful scene between Eva and railroad work- O Ano is, to my mind, one of the most
Eva Perón is always a huge hit in class. ers shows, like few other scenes in political original treatments of the impact of mili-
The film illustrates the multiple dimensions movies, the limited but still effective tools tary juntas in Latin American films. Most
of populism, especially its democratic available to populist leaders to placate movies on the topic of military abuse go
aspirations (the inclusion of previously internal dissent. Tired of unfulfilled prom- for the overkill, leaving no doubt that the
excluded sectors) and its authoritarian ises, railroad workers are ready to strike victims suffer transgressions that fundamen-
lapses (the mistreatment of the opposition against Perón. Eva is desperately weak tally alter, in fact, destroy their lives and
and institutions). In a scene between Eva because she knows that workers can cause minds. The perpetrators are true devils,
and the damas de beneficiencia (represent- trouble, but also harsh enough to intimi- and the victims are irreparable damaged
ing the oligarchy), Eva Perón (representing date. Again, this emotional mix is both goods. But in O Ano, we see a different
populism) is portrayed as cunning and superb acting and superb representation sort of victim—a kid whose life undergoes
caustic as the very same damas that Eva of state-labor relations in classic populism. trauma, but in many other ways, remains
is trying to belittle. In scenes with extreme The movie even works as a gender-study fairly intact as a result of military rule in
right-wingers and extreme left-wingers, Eva tool. Eva’s relationship with her husband— Brazil. The transgression against the victim
is portrayed simultaneously Machiavellian in which political and love interests are is unquestionable. His parents must go
and accommodating with each group. hard to differentiate—and her relationship into hiding and are thus forced to leave
And in dealing with the military, Eva is with the masses—in which Eva acts as a the kid with his grandfather, whom he
portrayed as both respectful and disdain- “sacrificing” matriarchal icon represent- hardly knows, in a neighborhood where
ful. The ability to show this diversity of ing a patriarchal militaristic state—offer he knows no one. The kid is lied to—the
personalities—within and across scenes— enough complexity to make discussion of hiding is explained as nothing other than
is a testament to superb acting, but also gender issues appealing to students. There an adults-only vacation to which he is not

40 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0

Director Lola Arias, born in 1976, is the from the past perhaps points to a way to This new type of Argentine film and the-
same generation as her actors-characters. She transform the future. But this “literalness” atre restores the collective dimension out of
describes her staging and intentions: “Six maintains a distance from verisimilitude the fragments of individual, loving discourse
actors born in the decade of the 70s and the through a way of talking without emphasis, that finally takes its place as source and doc-
beginning of the 80s reconstruct the youth lacking all emotional overtones, in which ument for that dramatic span of history.
of their parents through photos, letters, tapes, the words appear to flow with less fluidity
used clothing, stories and erased memories. than manipulating images (they use video Ana Amado is an Argentine essayist and
Who were my parents when I was born? on direct takes, home movies, photography), film critic. She teaches Film Analysis and
What was Argentina like before I learned to playing instruments (they play the electric Theory at the Facultad de Filosofía y
talk? What versions exist about what hap- guitar, hum melodies, beat drums) or danc- Letras of the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
pened when I didn’t yet exist or was so little ing or unbridled corporal play. Formerly a visiting professor at Princeton
that I don’t remember? Each actor does a As is the case of recent Argentine film by and Duke Universities, she is author of the
remake of scenes from the past to understand the children of the victims, Mi vida después book La imagen justa: Cine argentino y
the future. As doubles for the risk of their condenses the questions that come up in política (Ed. Colihue), co-author of Lazos
parents, the children wear their clothing and one work after another, in diverse forms of de Familia.: Herencias, cuerpos, ficciones
try to present the family history....” expression, about that time, about doubts (Editorial Paidos)and Espacios de Igual-
On the border between reality and fic- and allegiances, about the abyss between the dad (Ed. Fempress), as well as the author of
tion, in the encounter between two genera- generations, about those personal histories numerous texts in books and magazines in
tions, the “literal” interpretation of scenes that collectively make up history. Argentina and abroad.

invited to come. And immediately after his In contrast, there is nothing ordinary in passion. Alex is resentful of his/her par-
parents leave, the guardian-grandparent XXY. This is the story of 15-year old Alex, ents because they too have expectations
dies, and the new guardian proves to an intersexual teen whose time has come for him/her, but Alex knows that nobody
be a kid-despising grunt. For any middle to choose. Many intersexuals do not face else can be trusted to understand his/her
class kid, this is as traumatic as life can the luxury of choice: their parents are the predicament. In short, there is not a single
get, and many scenes in the film show ones who decide what to do with ana- minute in which Alex feels at ease, all the
the damaging effects. But the movie also tomical ambiguity, shortly after the child’s result, ironically, of plenty of love.
shows, much more powerfully and often birth. But Alex was “lucky” enough to have Psychologists often tell us that having
comically, that in so many other ways, enlightened parents who actually chose not too much choice can be a form of enslave-
this kid continues to be a kid. He makes to choose. They opted instead to wait until ment. The story of Alex tells us that having
friends just like any ordinary kid and plays Alex became old enough to choose for just one choice can be an impossible cru-
tricks on his friends just like any other kid. him/herself. They even moved from Bue- elty, if that choice has to do with gender
Sometimes he outsmarts his friends, and nos Aires to a beach town in Uruguay to identity. Alex’s story conveys forcefully
other times, he is the outsmarted one. And protect Alex from social stigmatism. These the plight of intersexual individuals even
he experiences typical (almost stereotypi- all qualify as the most dignity-respecting in environments that are as free from
cal) troubles and illusions in dealing with positions that any parents could take. Yet, homophobia as one can possibly recreate
females, both his age and older. In other at 15, this dignity proved to be a source in real life. That environment will never be
words, normalcy and anomaly coexist in of anguish for Alex. Alex knows the time that free from homophobia nor that free
the life of this victim. All this takes place in has come to decide on a gender, an urge to offer real choices. Alex the victim will
a neighborhood in São Paulo that, were that stems from his/her inner self, not just not necessarily become anyone’s hero, but
it not for the Portuguese language, the from peer pressure. But Alex doesn’t know many non-intersexuals will come out of this
hardly-changing weather, and the ubiqui- what he/she wants to be. Alex is attracted movie understanding better that, certainly
tous soccer matches, could look like just to both boys and girls, and no one at the for Alex and maybe for many of us, there
any ordinary neighborhood in New York, same time. He/she understands the ben- is no clearly preferable gender choice. In
Chicago or San Francisco in the 1970s: efits of being a man and the benefits of this movie, the plight of the extraordinary
the neighbors consist of Italians, Jews, being a woman, or rather, the harsh sacri- becomes palpably ordinary.
Blacks, Latinos, and plenty of mixed-race fices that each gender choice would entail.
folks. For an American student, even the Alex wants to be both, but he/she also Javier Corrales was the 2009 DRCLAS Central
neighborhood is both exotic and ordinary, wants to be one and not the other. Alex is America Visiting Scholar. He is an associate pro-
simultaneously. Few Latin American mov- both the victim of hate and the perpetrator fessor of Political Science at Amherst College. Cor-
ies about the trauma of dictatorship make of hate, especially against people who rales is the author of Presidents Without Parties:
such clever use of ordinariness to portray simply offer love. Alex is raped, physically the Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and
extraordinariness. and verbally, but he/she also finds com- Venezuela in the 1990s.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 41
film In latin America

The Three Lives

of Fernando Solanas
B y J o r ge R u f f i n ell i
Fernando Solanas

First life: the clandestine fighter documentary managed to be many things documentary. This innovation achieves an

n 1969, fernando ezequiel solanas at once: instrument of leftist political and extremely personal reading of Martín Fierro,
(b. Buenos Aires, 1936), in collabora- social protest; manifesto; educational cin- the 1872 classic “gauchesco” poem. Adding
tion with other Argentine filmmakers, ematic debate; essay of cultural interpre- to the film’s unique ambition, much of the
filmed a chapter of Argentina, mayo de tation of Latin America in general and of dialogue is written in the same octosyllabic
1969: los caminos de la liberación. The film Argentina in particular; a filmic collage, meter as José Hernández’s poem. Given the
has never been restored in its entirety, and collecting and juxtaposing fragments from poem’s fundamental role in Argentine cul-
few have seen it. Nevertheless, it remains a other films of the period; active artifact in ture, it becomes a poignant frame of refer-
legendary testimony to collective political the democratization of images; unofficial ence and brilliant backdrop for a complex
unrest, particularly influential for its pro- history. It was also the most controversial film that oscillates between epic and lyric,
motion of cinema as a new vehicle of protest film of the 1960s. realist and mythic, allowing the poem’s
against a ruling regime. Solanas and Getino also founded the “characters” and scenarios to articulate a
Solanas’ filmic inspirations were not Grupo Cine Liberación and developed political allegory of the 1970s in Argen-
exclusively cinematic: his studies in litera- the theory of “Third Cinema”: a cinema tina. In 1976, after a military coup d’etat,
ture, music, dance and law led him to pursue that is neither commercial nor authorial, Solanas went into exile.
theater arts at the Conservatory of Dramatic emerging instead from the public at large.
Arts, where cinema would eventually seduce Meanwhile, the two kept in close contact Second life: Exile and nostalgia
him. His career in cinema began at age 26, with Juan Domingo Perón during his exile In France, and later upon his return to
with the filming of Seguir andando (1962). in Madrid (1955-1973), following his Argentina, Solanas’ work underwent sub-
Another short film, Reflexión ciudadana removal from power in the so-called Liber- stantial changes. Without losing his political
(1963), followed a year later. ating Revolution (Revolución Libertadora). mission, the filmmaker started to develop
Like his friend Octavio Getino, Sola- The relationship resulted in their 1971 film, fictional stories, mixing present realities
nas was a Peronist, and in 1968 the two Perón: Actualización política y doctrinaria with the political and cultural myths of
men directed the most influential politi- para la toma del poder. Argentina, as he had begun to do with Los
cal documentary of the era: La hora de Solanas’ second full-length film, Los hijos de Fierro.
los hornos: Notas y testimonios sobre el neo- hijos de Fierro (1972), appropriated a well- Music, mise-en-scene, and concern
colonialismo, la violencia y la liberación. known literary character in order to experi- with the plastic and the visual assumed
Divided into three parts, the 255-minute ment with combining scenes of fiction and primacy in his work. This new combina-

42 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 p h o t o g r ap h b y J o r g e Ruffinelli

tion of elements produced a masterpiece of Democracy is supposed to permit and hit the pavement to record the events that
intense emotional force: Tangos, el exilio de promote political and cultural criticism. Fol- shook the country, directing four notable
Gardel (1985). lowing his return to newly democratic Argen- documentaries in just five years: Memoria
Tangos is the great film of South Ameri- tina, Solanas produced a variety of films and del saqueo (2004), La dignidad de los nadies
can exile. Filmed in France, it pays trib- articles which criticized successive Argentine (2005), Argentina latente (2007) and La
ute to the significance of that country in governments, especially that of Argentine próxima estación (2008).
Argentine cultural roots, to France’s pivotal President Carlos Saúl Menem. Although With youthful energy, Solanas returned
role in the historical acceptance of the tango Menem was also a Peronist, he ended up to a cinema of activism and exposé, but
(given its origin as a music and dance of destroying the Peronist movement, “selling” this time with four decades of cinemato-
brothels), to the supposed birth of Carlos the country by privatizing state resources and graphic experience, allowing him to assume
Gardel in Toulouse, and alluding to the two signing agreements of pardon and amnesty a resounding and authoritative first-person
and a half decades of exile the caudillo San for the militants of the Dirty War. account. Indeed, Solanas narrates each of
Martín spent in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. Paris El viaje (1992) and La nube (1998) these films himself, speaking on camera
provides the “natural” scenery for Tangos, satirized the government, and not without with his protagonists. Memoria del saqueo,
such as the handsome “Cortázarian” bridges consequence. Though one might expect the as its title implies, is the “story” of how
where the pairs of dancers choreograph their personal safety of citizens to be more secure Argentina was looted by politicians who
dances. Solanas avoids touristy and cliché in a democracy than under a dictatorship, privatized public services (airlines, tele-
Parisian scenes, favoring the dense and rich Solanas’ criticisms were met with violence: as phones, and others), and of the misdeeds
presence of the city, its streets, and its old he left a studio on May 21, 1991 unknown surrounding the financial and economic
buildings, a presence that bestows a certain gunmen made an attempt on his life. disaster and popular revolt of 2001.
charm on the lives of the exiled protagonists La dignidad de los nadies gave voice to
and corresponds with the musical, literary, Third life: The streets once again these “anonymous” people that fomented
visual, and filmic culture of these years of Argentina, 2001. Economic, social and the uprising of 2001, as well as those that
“mythic” reality of Argentina for one who labor conditions became insufferable under have agitated against the continual abuses
lived abroad, in exile. the administration of De la Rúa. In Buenos in Argentina. Inverting the perspective of
In Tangos, Solanas directs a film that is Aires, people took to the streets in massive Memoria del saqueo, which relates the abuses
both personal and representative of the era. and irrepressible protests. The president of the system, La dignidad de los nadies tells
This aesthetic is risky, but at the same time declared a state of siege, which only aggra- the story of popular resistance.
participates in a musical tradition that is vated the situation. The more police that The trend continues in Argentina latente
well established both inside and outside the were sent to the street to repress the upris- and La próxima estación. This last film under-
cinema. The splendid choreography displays ing, the more hopeless the battle for con- takes a sharp illustration of the looting with
a variety of tango styles, from traditional to trol became. The expression “¡Que se vayan just a single example: the state railroads. In
modern, allowing the dance to shine. The todos!” (“Out with them all!”) signaled a some sections of the film the thefts described
progression also shows that the narration, collective will that was difficult to stop are nearly unbelievable: looters make off
too, is mobile, and should not remain para- or contain. On December 21, De la Rúa with not only thousands of steel rails, but
lyzed in a simple realist telling. resigned ignominiously, fleeing the Casa de also with the warehouses that stored them.
When democracy was restored in Argen- Gobierno in a helicopter. As in all of his films, Solanas points directly
tina in 1983, Solanas returned. These events energized Solanas, as they to the names of the accused. In this sense
After Tangos, Solanas portrayed the did thousands of other Argentines. He was his films are also escraches, a colloquial and
other side of exile: “in-sile.” Situated in inspired to capture on film a historical mile- untranslatable word that describes physical
Buenos Aires, his film Sur resumes the stone that, while it had plenty of anteced- acts of denunciation, peaceful but effective
theme of the mythology of tango with ents, would have far-reaching consequences. actions of the victims themselves, that is,
the same talent and creativity on display Solanas felt that current events should be the citizens. Accompanying these acts is the
in Tangos. Divided into four sections explored in order to understand the histori- cinema, the means of communication most
(“La mesa de los sueños,” “La búsqueda,” cal moment, as well as the ones that would feared by the System.
“Amor y nada más,” and “Morir cansa”), follow. Above all, he wanted to put in per-
the film expresses the author’s willingness spective a long history of governmental cor- Jorge Ruffinelli, editor of Nuevo Texto
not only to be attentive to the direct expe- ruption, on the one hand, and the history Critico, is a professor in the Department
rience of his characters, but also to turn to of popular resistance on the other. of Spanish and Portuguese at Stanford
metaphor, myth, and poetry. The sets and Three decades had passed since La hora University and a recognized authority on
cinematography achieve a ghostly atmo- de los hornos, when Solanas rediscovered Onetti, García Márquez, Juan Rulfo, and
sphere, with lights curiously multiplied the cinema of the street. Cinematographic Latin American literary history. His critical
by mist, smoke, and rain-wet ground. The techniques had changed in these years, work has recently focused on Latin Ameri-
two films share the aesthetic required to and heavy 16mm cameras were traded in can cinema.
tell a subjective story in an objective man- for camcorders and high-definition digi-
ner. Sur is the story of love for a woman, tal. With these innovations, the cinema of This article was translated from the Span-
for a city, and for a country. Solanas regained its youth. The filmmaker ish by Adam Morris.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 43
film In latin America

Lita Stantic
An Interview by Haden Guest

roducer lita stantic (b. 1942) de la salvación. Relacionaba a Europa con la
played a crucial role in the nuevo cine guerra. Parece mentira, pero, después pasó
argentino that surged to international de todo en el país. No podría vivir en otro
prominence in the late 1990s and lugar, y en la época de la dictadura no me
early 2000s by discovering and support- fui, a pesar de que estaba relacionada con
ing young, emergent filmmakers—Lucre- mucha gente que desapareció. Pensé en un
cia Martel, Pablo Trapero, Israel Adrián momento que me iba a ir, pero tengo una
Caetano, Pablo Reyero, among them–who relación muy fuerte con este país y decidí
would together redefine Argentina as a quedarme.
newly vibrant center for cutting edge art
cinema. Equally renowned for her eleven- Lita Stantic HG: Uno de los puntos muy interesantes del
year partnership with Maria Luisa Bemberg, nuevo cine argentino es el hilo político, a
one of Argentina’s most important women fue más homogénea con respecto a la veces muy sutil, que pasa por muchas de las
directors, Stantic also proved herself as a edad, porque tenían entre veinte y pico y películas. Una de las películas más conocida
filmmaker with her powerful and autobio- treinta y pico de años. Y creo que eso no se que se produjo, La ciénaga (2001) de
graphically inspired debut feature, A Wall daba desde los años 60, en que hubo una Lucrecia Martel, es para mi un buen ejemplo
of Silence/ Un Muro de silencio (1993), a generación de directores que hacía un cine de una obra que tiene una cierta dimensión
candid exploration of the still deeply sen- estilo Nueva Ola del cine francés. Creo política—si consideramos la comparación
sitive topic of the desaparecidos during the que en relación a la generación de 60, esta muy fuerte que hace la película de las dos
darkest years of the dictatorship. Incredibly generación es más individualista. En esa familias que representan distintos lados socio-
generous with her time and opinions, Lita generación, se apoyaban más unos a otros. económicos.
Stantic was kind enough to receive me on No sé, el mundo cambió, y también los LS: Yo conocí a Lucrecia Martel en el año
two early autumn afternoons in May, at her directores se volvieron más individualistas. 98. El guión de La ciénaga ya estaba escrito
beautiful office in the Palermo Hollywood Por eso, a muchos de ellos no les gusta y para ella era una película más existencial.
neighborhood of Buenos Aires where we que se los incluya en el llamado “nuevo Lo que pasa es que se le impuso la historia.
discussed the course of her long and sto- cine argentino¨. Es un grupo de gente A veces el autor está mostrando algo que
ried career. que empieza a hacer su primera película ha vivido, y se le imponen contextos,
a lo largo de una cantidad de años y esas se le impone la historia, sin que haya la
películas son como un quiebre dentro del intencionalidad de marcar algo, de marcar
“El nuevo cine Argentino” cine argentino. un momento histórico.
Haden Guest: ¿Que significa para Ud. el
término “el nuevo cine Argentino”? A pesar de HG: Y claro que no podemos seguir usando la HG: Claro. Pero, tomamos otro ejemplo,
la heterogeneidad del grupo clasificado como palabra “nuevo” para siempre, ¿verdad? otra película que produjo, Mundo grúa
miembros del nuevo cine—un grupo que LS: Ya lo nuevo empieza a ser viejo, ¿no? (1999) de Pablo Trapero. Si uno mira
incluye directores de talento y perspectiva muy Lo ex-nuevo. Recuerdo que vino una vez al retrospectivamente hacía una película como
diverso––se clasifica en este grupo todos los festival de Mar del Plata en los años 60 René Mundo grúa (1999) se nota como captura
nuevos directores argentinos que han aparecido Clair, y le preguntaron por la nueva ola. perfectamente un momento histórico, ¿no? En
desde los 1990s. Pero si consideramos el Dicen que, mirando al mar, dijo, “Todas este caso, el momento de crisis nacional para
nuevo cine más precisamente como una etapa las olas son nuevas.” Argentina.
histórica, que empezó con Martin Rejtman LS: Las veces que le han preguntado a Pablo
y con Pizza, birra, faso (1998) de Israel HG: Algo que tiene muchas de las primeras Trapero en la época de Mundo grúa, si la
Caetano, ¿podemos decir que todavía está películas del nuevo cine es un sentido de lugares película tenía algo que ver con la decadencia
activo el nuevo cine argentino, o es lo de hoy específicamente argentinos, como la Salta de de los 90 en Argentina...él lo negaba. Lo
otra cosa, un tipo de variación? Martel, o Bolivia, que es un retrato de un curioso de acá es que se dan coincidencias
Lita Stantic: Ahora hay nuevas generaciones vecindario porteño, o el suburbio de Un Oso y a veces se filtra, de alguna manera aparece
y quizás no se siente tanto el cambio, el rojo, o Mundo grúa que captura la textura el contexto, y el contexto es lo político. Él
impacto que se dio con el llamado nuevo de la ciudad, o Tan de repente, que hace muy no pensó en que la película era política—y
cine argentino. En los años anteriores los fuerte el contraste del mar y ciudad. es muy política, porque de alguna manera,
directores pertenecían a varias generaciones. LS: Yo soy hija de inmigrantes de primera Mundo grúa es el fracaso del Menemismo.
Esta generación que fue la que apareció generación, y creo que uno se enraíza más, HG: Y representar a la clase obrera en la gran
en la segunda parte de la década del 90 ¿no? De chiquita, vi Argentina como el lugar pantalla es un acto político, ¿no?

44 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 p h o t o g r ap h c o u r t es y o f Haden Gues t


LS: Pero a él no le gustaba que se le diera que me puede hacer ver la vida de otra Fundamentalmente para nosotros fue
esa connotación en ese momento. Pero pasa. forma, y entender más a los hombres, a la una experiencia muy fuerte La hora de los
Tampoco La ciénaga era una película sobre humanidad. hornos en el año 68. Y en ese momento
la decadencia de la clase media cuando la En general, yo no tengo la expectativa pensamos que el cine tenía que ser político.
pensó Lucrecia Martel. del negocio hasta que tengo que estrenar. Comenzamos a difundir La hora de los hor-
Ahí empiezo a pensar en el negocio, pero no nos clandestinamente.
HG: Pero usted, como productora, está a unos elijo un guión pensando en la comercialidad
pasos afuera del proyecto. ¿Se fija usted en estos del producto, eso es seguro. Elijo algo que a HG: ¿Eso fue el Grupo Cine Liberación?
aspectos políticos? mí me guste, que me llegue de alguna man- LS: Sí. El Grupo Cine Liberación se
LS: No. Yo no leí en el guión de La ciénaga era, Veo un corto anterior, que haya hecho amplió, y se formaron grupos que, con un
un contexto político. Cuando leí el guión el director, como para decidir: “Bueno, sí, proyector de 16 mm., proyectaban películas
de La ciénaga, como he contado varias me lanzo con este proyecto”. Pero no, no clandestinamente en casas.
veces, creí que era Chejov, y después me di pienso en lo comercial que puede ser la
cuenta que no era Chejov, que más bien es película. Después, naturalmente sí, cuando HG: Claro. ¿Y cómo invitaron a la gente para
Faulkner, ¿no? estoy por estrenar. ver las películas? ¿Fue algo del boca a boca?
LS: Alguien invitaba a sus amigos o a un
HG: En su larga carrera ha apoyado a bastantes Desde temprano grupo de estudio y se armaban grupos de 15
directores y ha ayudado una generación nueva HG: ¿Cuándo fue la primera vez que se dio ó 20 personas. Se conectaban con nosotros
muy talentosa. ¿Pero también podríamos cuenta de que el cine tenía esa posibilidad y proyectábamos La hora de los hornos con
entender su carrera en otra manera, como un de transformar, de cambiar o inventar un un debate posterior
intento de apoyar un cine nacional, de ayudar distinto punto de vista, una manera de ver y
a crear un cine nacional? ¿Estaba pensando en entender el mundo? HG: Y estos debates, ¿los organizaron ustedes,
esto durante los primeros años del nuevo cine LS: Digamos, yo tengo pasión por el cine o fue algo más espontáneo?
argentino en los noventas? desde muy pequeña. Mi idea, cuando era LS: No, nosotros mismos lo organizábamos
LS: Yo diría que no. Si se hubiera presentado adolescente o antes, cuando era púber, con debate al final de la proyección. Y en
alguien de mi generación en estos años con digamos, a los 13, 14 años era ser crítica del el año 69 se agregó otra película sobre el
un libro que a mí me gustara, lo habría cine. Porque bueno, en ese momento, y aún Cordobazo que realizaron diez directores.
producido. No es que elegí una generación, cuando terminé la escuela secundaria, era Hace pocos años Fernando Peña rescató esa
primero. Y me gustan las películas que, de muy poco probable el futuro de una mujer película, que estaba perdida.
alguna manera, me dejan algo, Digamos, me en el cine. No había equipos con mujeres. Bueno, era época de dictadura, el año
gusta salir del cine transformada. Y bueno, Los equipos eran totalmente masculinos. 69, 70. Pero no era una dictadura como la
la elección se debe un poco a eso. Quiero Entonces me parecía que el acceso a estar que vino después. El peligro que se corría
producir un guión que me transforme, o cerca del cine era la crítica de cine. Pero, era muy pequeño en relación a lo que pasó
transforme a la gente. Yo me formé en el cine digamos, vi mucho cine en la adolescencia, después del 76.
y la lectura. Para mí, soy como soy, digamos, muchísimo cine, y de una manera mucho A la llegada de La hora de los hornos se
y creo que tengo una ética y una manera de cine de revisión. sumó un año más tarde el Cordobazo, un
ver la vida por lo que pude leer y ver en cine Para mí, las películas que me marcaron hecho que se festeja justamente hoy, que
en mi infancia, mi adolescencia, y un poco alrededor de los 20 años, fueron las polacas fue un movimiento de estudiantes y tra-
más tarde también. Pienso que de alguna de fines de los 50 y principios de los 60 y el bajadores en Córdoba que estalló el 29 de
manera el cine tiene que contar algo sobre Nuevo Realismo Italiano. Creo que fueron mayo de 1969, como una prolongación más
politizada del 68 francés. Salir a la calle,
pensar que, bueno, que se podía cambiar
This interview with Argentine filmmaker Lita Stantic al mundo. En toda Latinoamérica se dio de
discusses New Argentine Cinema, Stantic’s early life and una manera más política.
El Cordobazo fue una fecha fundamen-
her film Un Muro de Silencio. You can read this interview tal. Salieron a la calle obreros, estudiantes,
hubo un desmadre. En todos los canales de
in English at televisión, había imágenes del Cordobazo.
En esas imágenes la policía montada ret-
la humanidad. Hacernos comprender algo las experiencias más fuertes que viví. Quería rocedía frente a las pedradas de los estudi-
más. Esa es la idea en la elección—también ver todo lo que se había hecho al respecto antes. Fue un momento bastante crucial.
en el cine que me gusta. Me gustan más los de ese cine, Pero, naturalmente pasé por esa Mucha gente joven pensó que era posible
Hermanos Dardenne que las películas de etapa y después vino otra, la etapa en que hacer la revolución. Fueron épocas muy bel-
acción americanas. Por lo general no veo uno pensaba que a través del cine se podía las, porque pensar que se puede cambiar el
películas de acción. Pero bueno, me gusta hacer la revolución. Y entonces me encuadré mundo es maravilloso.
el cine que, de alguna manera me deja en el cine de compromiso, Eso fue ya a fines
algo, que todavía me pueda transformar, de los 60. HG: ¿Cuál era su papel en el Grupo Cine

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 45
film In latin America

Liberación, ¿estaba una de las vivos un tiempo. Y de esto no se

organizadoras, o...? hablaba mucho en la época de la
LS: No, no. Yo estuve en el Grupo dictadura. Era como que haber
Cine Liberación solamente en el permanecido vivo podía significar
tema de difusión de las películas, algo incorrecto. Pero después las
y con Pablo Szir—que es el padre cosas se blanquearon más.
de mi hija, que en esa época era mi
pareja –hicimos una película que HG: No, complica la historia.
él dirigió, con libro propio y con Completamente. La historia que
colaboración mía y de Guillermo ya estaba conocida en el mundo,
Schelske sobre unos bandidos entonces. No solamente en Argen-
tipo Robin Hood que la policía tina. Pero también, para mi es tomar
y el ejército habían matado, en A still from Un Muro de Silencio una perspectiva individual, personal
el año 6—era bastante reciente para hablar de una situación muy
la situación. La película se llamó Los la dirigí. En el año 86, hicimos con María complicada, muy grande, es una de las
Velázquez, y ha desaparecido. Pablo es Luisa Miss Mary, con Julie Christie como maneras más efectivas, más poderosas, ¿no?
hoy también un desaparecido. Estuvimos protagonista. La que me provocó un poco De no tratar de decir una historia así como
dos años filmando una película, sobre un la idea de contar esta historia, que tiene que una épica, algo así como una gran historia,
campesino que se revela de la prepotencia ver bastante con una experiencia personal, un gran melodrama, sino tomarlo desde los
policial, se une a otro, y es apoyado por fue Julie Christie. Porque Julie se instaló acá dos ojos de una persona, así. Yo creo que tiene
los campesinos en el Chaco porque con y empezó a querer informarse sobre nuestro más, no sé, más poder. Y yo creo que esa es la
las ganancias de sus robos y sus secuestros pasado reciente. importancia de este proyecto.
ayuda a los campesinos. Hoy Isidro Julie vino por siete semanas y se quedó LS: De alguna forma la película trata del
Velásquez es un mito en el Chaco, que fue un montón de meses. Se enamoró de Argen- ocultamiento. No sólo de la necesidad de
la provincia donde vivió y murió. tina, y es un poco la idea de la inglesa que olvidar y la imposibilidad de olvidar, sino del
Es muy extraño todo esto porque esta viene a Argentina para entender algo de ocultamiento porque hay un ocultamiento
historia fue investigada y publicada por
un sociólogo Roberto Carri (el padre de
Albertina) que en 1968 publicó el libro:
“Yo quería hablar de la memoria, de una persona que
Isidro Velázquez: formas prerrevolucionar- quiere olvidar. Pero la memoria siempre vuelve.
ias de la violencia. Pablo leyó el libro de
Carri y quiso filmar una película, una Y vuelve de la manera más infernal.”—lita stantic
mezcla de documental y ficción sobre los
Velázquez. Un documental sobre la situ- lo que pasa acá. Después de esa experien- con respecto a la hija. Y bueno, son cosas
ación económica del Chaco, y esta gente cia con Julie quise escribir un guión que personales. Muy dolorosas, creo que por
que se revela frente a injusticias y que terminé haciendo con Graciela Maglie y eso también mucha gente que ha vivido
después termina de alguna manera pro- Gabriela Massuh. este tipo de experiencia se identifica con
tegido por los campesinos. A tal punto la película.
la policía no puede con él, que tiene que LS: Yo quería era hablar de la memoria,
recurrir al ejército para poder matarlo. Hay de una persona que quiere olvidar. Pero HG: Pero también me parece que es una
escritos sobre los Velázquez y hoy en día la memoria siempre vuelve. Y vuelve de la actitud sobre cómo hablar de temas políticos
en el Chaco, se festeja a Isidro Velázquez manera más infernal, con alucinaciones. El con el cine, y tener, como ha dicho, una
como un héroe. Más aún, en la época del personaje cree ver a su marido desaparecido experiencia transformativa. Y no tener una
regreso de Perón, escribían en las paredes, en la calle. Por momentos uno quiere actitud de un tipo didacticismo en el cine.
“Perón vuelve, Velázquez vive”. Lo vivi- olvidar las experiencias traumáticas que le Porque yo creo que ese es el problema con el
mos como una forma prerrevolucionaria de pasaron en la vida, y quiere decir, “Bueno, cine político, que es...
la violencia, porque ya en 1969 empiezan mi vida empieza ahora”, y, no. Para mí lo LS: Yo creo que es una película en que el
a surgir los grupos armados. fundamental y la única manera de tener proceso empieza cuando la película termina.
sanidad mental es conservar la memoria. Y en ese sentido, sí, es una película para
Un muro de silencio pensar.
HG: Hablamos de Un muro de silencio LS: Lo que me enorgullece de la película es
(1992), el único largometraje que ha dirigido que siento que mucha gente de derechos Haden Guest is the director of the
y un proyecto muy personal. ¿Me puede contar humanos se sintió identificada. Estaba Harvard Film Archive.
algo sobre los orígenes de este proyecto, y sobre contada la historia desde adentro, ¿no?
sus intenciones y deseos como directora? Porque de repente se hablaba de algo A translated version of this interview in
LS: Bueno, yo empecé con la idea de Un de lo que no se había hablado—que a English can be found at http://www.drclas.
muro de silencio mucho antes del año en que muchos desaparecidos, los mantuvieron

46 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 p h o t o g r ap h c o u r t es y o f Haden Gues t


The Americas: Updated!

b y Ph i ll i p B e r r y m a n

For years I have been using in my classes several films from the to the point where even small farmers find themselves moving from
“Americas” series, done by a group of academics and filmmakers subsistence farming to commercial crops.
and shown on PBS in 1992. At the time it was a great achieve- Geography and Sustainable Development: One way to
ment, ten films which combined themes (economics, race/ethnicity, approach this topic might be to point out how geography affected
urbanization, revolution, counterrevolution, women, religion, art, the development of various countries (e.g., Colombia), and that
identity, Latinos) and country profiles (Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia/ the interior of South America went unsettled until the twentieth
Caribbean, Cuba, Central America, etc.). Even though the series century. Now of course the Amazon region has been under threat
was intended for a broad public and for introductory use in class- from ranchers, loggers, and small farmers.
rooms, the more you knew about Latin America the more you could Business and Labor: Topics might include a story of small busi-
appreciate how much the academics and filmmakers had packed nesses, factories or stores; the story of pão de queijo—the small
into each film. The series was augmented by Peter Winn’s book Brazilian roll from Minas Gerais that started as local business and
Americas, now in third edition, and also a series of readings. became a successful national chain; and discussions of foreign
Although the series continues to have much to commend it (I investment, informal employment, and organized labor.
typically use three of the films in a one-semester course), events Race and Ethnicity: The earlier film Mirrors of the Heart is
have moved on. The films represent the early 1990s, although excellent at portraying how prejudice operates at the family and
work had started a decade before. local levels. Possible topics include indigenous militancy in Ecua-
I believe those of us who teach about Latin America would dor, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Colombia; history of Afro-Latin
like to see a new “Americas,” a series that would do something America, including slavery, and claims of “racial democracy.”
similar for Latin America today. The time may be ripe for an ambi- Youth and Education: Although education is often treated as
tious fresh look at Latin America in the spirit of the previous series part of social policy, making it a topic itself has some advantages;
because of an emerging pragmatic consensus on the way forward we’ve all spent years in school, and the series itself might often
in Latin America. Somewhat loosely, here are some of the ingredi- be used in schools. Some topics include recent notable advances
ents of that growing consensus: (e.g., almost universal enrollment in elementary school in some
nN  atural resources, particularly oil, are not in themselves the key countries); likewise problems of equity and problems of quality.
to development. A Changing Family: The idea would be to take a look at the
nB  y hindsight it is clear that Latin American countries should have household, with the realization that families vary considerably by
moved away from “inward” development toward more “out- economic and social class.
ward” development sooner. Law and Order: Possible themes include ending impunity; pris-
nL  atin American countries should move toward a model of devel- ons; drug trafficking; domestic drug problems (e.g., Brazil is the
opment based on human capital. no. 2 consumer of cocaine in the world, after the United States).
nO  ne key is a competitive private sector at all levels (small, Deepening Democracy: All Latin American countries (except
medium and large business). “Competitive” means producing Cuba) have some version of formal democracy, but people remain
goods and services at world standards. largely disappointed with the results.
nW  hat is required of government is that it be effective and respon- I see this film series as an interpretation of Latin America for
sive, and not only at national but at regional and local levels. English-speakers. Although the talking heads should be primar-
nE  ducation should be expanded to provide opportunity for all, ily Latin Americans, we must remember that Latin America itself
and quality should be improved (again to world standards). is an abstraction. In their national identity people are Mexicans,
nE  xcessive inequality is not only unfair and unjust; it is an impedi- Argentines, Costa Ricans, Peruvians and so forth; people may also
ment to real development. identify with their village or indigenous roots. They may be linked
nT  he rule of law is crucial in many ways, including ending impu- to other countries in the continent by language, trade agreements,
nity of military, police, and the powerful; combating crime and telenovelas, popular music, celebrities, religion; their governments
drug trafficking; and reducing pervasive corruption in govern- collaborate in various ways, but they are not primarily interested
ment and the private sector. in Latin America as such.
In short, with this new consensus, time is ripe for a series similar Anyone else’s ruminations on what such a series would look
to “Americas.” Below, I offer some thoughts on the shape such a like would be different from mine. However, the ease with which
series might take. these ideas have come to me reinforces my sense that the time is
Surviving in the City: “Americas” highlighted urbanization, the ripe for such a venture.
move to the city (“Continent on the Move”). The “urban shift” is now
a reality: the continent is now 75-80% urban by the usual demo- Phillip Berryman is a professor of Latin American Studies at Temple Univer-
graphic standards, so we’d want a closer look at life in the cities. sity. You may reach him at If you would like to con-
Food and Farming: My assumption here is that Latin American tribute to a public discussion about this article, go to ReVista Forum at http://
countries are rapidly moving toward a commercial farming model,

p h o t o g r ap h b y fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 47
Che to Che p. 48
A Brief Chronicle p. 52

This section zooms in and out on two aspects of Chilean

cinema. Carmen Oquendo-Villar looks at sexual politics
through the lens of a film on Che, while Iván Pinto Veas
provides us with a thoughtful overview of Chilean film.

Che to Che
Sexual Politics in Chile
b y C a r m e n Oq u e n d o - V i ll a r

n unlikely couple monopolized chilean headlines about American Sixties (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007: 51),
the 16th Festival de Cine de Viña del Mar in 2004: international Diana Sorensen argues that Salles’ Che represents the “incarnation
superstar Mexican actor Gael García Bernal and local Chilean of a promise without the burden of its radical implications.” The
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) activist Víc- choice of a pre-revolutionary Che may very well be one of the secrets
tor Hugo Robles, who also focuses on HIV/AIDS issues. Despite behind the film’s blockbuster success, exceeding even the studio
the sharp contrast in their spheres of influence and stardom status, Focus Features’ box-office expectations. This idea is backed by the
García Bernal and Robles had something in common. They had fact that, even after making considerable profits with The Motor-
both joined the crew of Che Guevara impersonators including, cycle Diaries, Focus Features refused to buy Steven Soderbergh’s
most notably, Omar Sharif, Antonio Banderas, Madonna, Cher Che (2008), which featured a decidedly “bearded” and “iconic”
and, more recently, Benicio del Toro. (For an extensive list of Che incarnation of Che, certainly burdened with radical implications.
Guevara impersonators see Trisha Ziff, ed., Che Guevara: Revolution- In fact, Soderbergh’s film faced difficulties in finding an audience
ary and Icon, New York: Abrams Image, 2006.) both domestically ($1,497,109 in box office in a film that some
García Bernal had come to Chile to promote one of the block- speculate cost as much as 30 million) and abroad (figures vary, but
buster films of the festival, The Motorcycle Diaries by Brazilian direc- 9 million as the most generous).
tor Walter Salles and executive producer Robert Redford. The Viña Nothing is further from Gael García Bernal’s blockbuster
del Mar Motorcycle Diaries screening at the festival was the official impersonation of a pre-ideological Ernesto Guevara than Víctor
premiere of the film in Chile. In addition to actor García Bernal, Hugo Robles’ rendition of Che. Unlike the Hollywood stars who
Alberto Granado, the actual Argentine-Cuban doctor who accom- glamorously impersonated Guevara, Robles, with his trademark
panied Che around Latin America, flew to Chile. Amidst all the guerrillero look, had a specific queer left-wing political agenda.
media hype with Gael and Salles’ film, a discreet, until then practi- In fact, the founding members of Chile’s LGBT movement,
cally obscure Chilean documentary began to make headlines. The MOVILH (Movimiento de Liberación Homosexual de Chile), to
short documentary El Che de los Gays directed by Arturo Álvarez which Robles belonged, situated the movement in opposition to
and produced by Pamela Sierra in the short-film category, achieved Pinochet’s dictatorship, even if left-wing political movements tac-
sudden notoriety because of the dialogue that Víctor Hugo Robles, itly excluded queer folk. A practicing journalist, Robles flirted with
a charismatic and media savvy figure himself, attempted to establish mass media outlets to draw attention to Chilean human rights
with the superstar through the local media in Viña del Mar. demands, broadly defined, but also to specific LGBT demands, like
Both films were presenting a different spin on the historical the defense of lesbian motherhood and the derogation of article
figure of Ernesto Che Guevara. Having spawned an iconic poster 365 of the Chilean Penal Code that penalized sodomy between
and taken on a life of its own, Che’s image had become both a homosexual men. El Che de los gays was Robles’ response to this
fashionable de-politicized logo as well as a potent anti-establishment tension between left-wing politics and gay life:
symbol used by a wide spectrum of human rights movements and
individuals affirming their own liberation. Salles’ film presents a “Escogí la figura del Che porque es la máxima metáfora del revolucio-
return to an early Ernesto Guevara free of beard, beret and fatigues, nario contemporáneo y al asumir parte de su figura representacional
before becoming Che and fully articulating his revolutionary ide- (estrella, boina y actitud guerrillera), busco politizar la homosexualidad
ology. In A Turbulent Decade to Remember: Scenes from the Latin y/o homosexualizar la política, demostrando que es posible ser homo-

48 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0
Che impersonator Víctor Higo Robles demands Pinochet be brought to justice.

p h o t o g r ap h c o u r t es y o f C a r men o q uend o - villa r fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 49

film In latin America

A scene from the movie Motorcycle Diaries

sexual y ser revolucionario; ser homosexual y ser de izquierda; ser homo- our cause.” Víctor Hugo’s relationship with Cuba has been solid, even
sexual y luchar por los cambios y la transformación de la sociedad.” if during the official presentation of the documentary he was at the
center of a controversy for quoting salient Cuban gay writer Reinaldo
(“I chose the figure of Che because it is the maximum metaphor for Arenas, who died of AIDS in New York after publicly distancing
the contemporary revolutionary. By assuming part of his representa- himself from the Revolution.
tional figure (star, beret and guerrilla stance), I sought to politicize More recently, Víctor Hugo engaged in a public confrontation
homosexuality and/or homosexualize politics, demonstrating that it is with Chilean novelist Pedro Lemebel over the homophobia of some
possible to be homosexual and to be revolutionary; to be homosexual of Cuba’s leading revolutionary icons, namely legendary cantau-
and fight for change and the transformation of society.”) tor Silvio Rodríguez. In contrast to Lemebel, Víctor Hugo Robles
sided with Rodríguez, who in 1995 supported the Chilean LGBT
Víctor Hugo’s choice of Che Guevara to challenge the separation movement in its attempt to derogate Article 365. (For an account
between homosexuality and revolution places his performance in a of the debate between Rodíguez, Lemebel and Robles, see Dan-
unique position, given that many gay rights activist and intellectu- iela Escárate, “¿Lemebel contrarrevolucionario o Silvio Rodríguez
als consider Che Guevara a homophobic figure within the Cuban homofóbico?” Disidencia Sexual, March 18, 2009, online. See also
Revolution. In Gay Cuban Nation, Emilio Bejel refers to Che Guevara the article that sparkled the debate: Bruno Bimbi, “Cuba, la Revo-
as “one of the staunchest homophobic leaders of the revolutionary lución y los gays,” Actitud Gay Magazine. Jan 5, 2009, online.) It is
period” (100). Despite the UMAPs forced labor camps to rehabilitate evident that still today, Robles insists on evoking Che Guevara for
“anti-social” people, including gays in Cuba, Víctor Hugo remains a his own political performance.
loyal defender of the Cuban Revolution. During his most recent visit Alvarez’s documentary, El Che de los gays, constructs a narrative
to the island, Mariela Castro, Cuba’s leading sexologist and director of the transformation of Víctor Hugo Robles into El Che de los
of the National Center for Sexual Education, who also happens to be gays within the context of sexual politics in Chile. This narrative is
Raúl Castro’s daughter, officially sanctioned Víctor Hugo’s imperson- constructed through footage of interviews with Robles, his grand-
ation of Che by stating “if Che were alive, he would be supporting mother, and key figures in the Chilean left such as Gladys Marín,

50 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 p h o t o g r ap h c o u r t es y o f F o cus F ea t u r es

Tomás Moulián and Juan Pablo Sutherland, as well as through Carlos Altamirano in his book Dialéctica de una derrota, Pinochet’s
archival footage of Robles’ media appearances. This queering of defeat during the 1989 plebiscite, the fall of the Berlin Wall and
Che’s image on the part of Víctor Hugo is highlighted by the the triumph of global capitalism, as well as the Chilean transi-
documentary’s overpowering soundtrack, which swallows some of tion to democracy which marginalized the revolutionary left in
the scenes with songs by Raphael, Pettinellis and Camilo Sesto, Chile. In fact, Alborta’s image of a deceased Che surrounded
usual soundscape of the Chilean gay scene. Alvarez’s documentary by his military captors resonated in the Chilean imaginary with
explores Víctor Hugo’s LGBT activism through the commander’s another image of defeat: the widely circulated 1973 photograph
image, while also registering the reaction of Chilean audiences to of Salvador Allende’s corpse being removed by military personnel
a Che Guevara in drag. In fact, director Arturo Alvarez belongs from La Moneda after the Pinochet coup. Even if Víctor Hugo
to a generation of young documentarians in Chile who, having does not verbally subscribe to the notion of political defeat, by giv-
learned lessons from masters like Patricio Guzmán, are interested in ing prominence to Moulián’s interview, the documentary brings
recuperating stories of resistance among the Chilean youth. Docu- forth such interpretations.
mentaries like Actores secundarios by Pachi Bustos and Jorge Leiva, While Ernesto only became a pop icon upon his death, Víctor
about politicized secondary school students, Malditos: La historia Hugo’s El Che de los gays has derived new life from Che’s cadaver.
de los Fiskales Ad-Hok by Pablo Insunza, about the Chilean musi- El Che de los gays framed his own persona around Che’s defeated
cal counterculture in the 80s, and El Che de los gays challenge the body as well as on the ailing, martyrized, and lacerated bodies of
so-called de-politicization of Chilean youth popularized by many, figures such as Saint Sebastian and Jesus Christ (a figure that is often
including Guzmán himself in films like La memoria obstinada. invoked in the iconography of Che, i.e. Chesucristo). Invested with
Alvarez’s documentary explores a tension in the character con- iconography of contagion and contamination (of message, political
structed by Robles. Though seduced by the combatant image of views, and purity), Robles’ figure alluded to biological contagions
Che, most emblematically captured by Cuban photographer Alberto and explored the ways in which the concept of disease had framed
Korda’s now-legendary photograph, another image also haunts the culturally resonant behaviors like radicalism or homosexuality.
performance of El Che de los gays, that taken by Bolivian photog- Indeed, weakness and infirmity are a common thread in Gael
rapher Freddy Alborta of the deceased Che Guevara as he lay dead García Bernal’s and Víctor Hugo Robles’ impersonations. While
on a table surrounded by his captors. Salles’ film portrays an asthmatic young Ernesto, Che Guevara’s body
In the documentary, Alvarez gives particular prominence to an contained a duality that Robles embraced: unbridled force drawing
interview with sociologist Tomás Moulián. According to Moulián, from his political beliefs and actions as well as a physical fragility
Robles’ performance directly references that defeated Che seen in due to asthma. Asthma marked the body of the guerrillero with
the latter image: frailty, turning him both into a doctor (which he was by training)
of Latin American social illnesses and a patient for his own bodily
“Tiene un aspecto desvalido, no puede representar a Che de la cara- condition. Living openly with HIV, the Chilean Che recognized this
bina, entonces, él representa un cierto Che, el Che de la derrota y duality in the impersonated model and once placed a motto on his
él usa las imágenes de la derrota. Yo creo que se inspira en el Che beret’s star: “CHE, TE ASMO” (changing the word “love” to one
muerto, entonces, es un gesto interesante, es un gesto descolocante, that combines asthma with love: asmo [asma+amor]).
que se vincula más al Che patético, el patetismo del profeta desar- For the moment, any existing dialogue between the two Ches will
mado, al profeta semiarmado. El no representa el realismo, sino que remain on the page and between the two screens. Robles attempted
el idealismo, el gesto. Es alguien que busca el poder abandonándolo, to establish a Che to Che dialogue with García Bernal through
hay algo en la figura misma de Víctor Hugo Robles que le permite the Chilean media. He went “live” to invite the superstar to the
jugar bien ese papel, y donde se une la simbología cristiana con la screening of the documentary, hoping to begin a conversation about
simbología política, entonces yo creo que es una performance inte- the politics of impersonating Che. García Bernal, however, did
resante, muy interesante.” (“He has a helpless appearance; he cannot not attend the Viña del Mar screening of the documentary, which
represent the Che of the carbine rifle; he represents a certain Che, the went on to win several awards, including best documentary in the
defeated Che, and he uses images of defeat. I believe he is inspired II International Festival of Gay/Lesbian and Transsexual Films in
by the dead Che, therefore, it is an interesting gesture, a disconsolate Bilbao, Spain. The conversation between impersonators has yet to
gesture, that links him more to the pathetic Che, the pathetic quality occur. It has an additional pending guest: Benicio del Toro and his
of a disarmed prophet, a semi-armed prophet. He does not represent hypermacho rendition of El comandante.
realism but rather idealism, the gesture. He is someone who looks
for power by abandoning it; there is something in the very figure of Carmen Oquendo-Villar (Harvard Ph.D.) is the Jacob Javits
Víctor Hugo Robles that allows him to act this role well, a role in Fellow at New York University’s Kanbar Institute of Film and Tele-
which Christian symbolism mingles with political symbolism, thus I vision in Tisch School of the Arts, where she is continuing her film-
think this is a very, very interesting performance.”) making training, and at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance
and Politics, where she serves as researcher and film curator.
Given Moulián’s role as campaign manager for Gladys Marín, She is completing a book on Chile’s 1973 Coup as a performance
a communist presidential candidate defeated time and again in and media event. She is also writing on the figuration of Che Guevara’s
elections, his take on Víctor Hugo’s performance resonates with image within Latin American political documentary cinema. As a
multiple defeats in Chilean history. These defeats include the visual artist and filmmaker (, she has focused
collapse of Allende in 1973 and the ensuing crisis, studied by her work around issues of gender and sexuality.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 51
film In latin America

A Brief Chronicle
Culture and Beyond
b y Iv á n P i n t o V e a s

s i see it, the development of chilean cinema during in Berlin, best script award in Havana), and was
the last years followed two general paths. very well received locally. The film takes place in
The first line of development concerns the institutional a desolate landscape in southern Chile, and tells
framework. Cultural enterprises, especially film, have played the story of Ramiro Orellana, an ex-militant
a growing role in the democratization process. whom the dictatorship government sent to work
The second concerns the aesthetic, narrative and thematic processes there. With an imaginative cast of characters
which cinema has developed as a cultural-artistic phenomenon. (a Spanish Civil War veteran, a lonely woman,
In merging the two we may find the social and cultural roles a diver, among others), the film is remarkable
which cinema has played in renewing forms, approaches and ques- for its ability to create profound images that link the powerful and
tions within an ongoing historical process. From here we can ask destructive force of the landscape with the country’s social reality.
another question that has been raised lately about the develop- Larraín creates a robust and poetic work, close to what we today
ment of, diffusion and reception of the cinema as cultural-social might understand as “magical realism.” Amnesia and La memoria
phenomenon. obstinada project different moods. The first one is a dark drama
which tells a story of revenge against a torturer (painted in broad
Ghosts, returns, uncertainty. The cinema of strokes verging on the grotesque). The second is a documentary by
transition. one of the Chilean directors who had a brilliant career outside of
The Chilean Congress promulgated a long-awaited law of audiovi- Chile and became famous with La Batalla de Chile (1975-1979),
sual finance intended to create a film industry in 2004. a documentary about the rise and fall of Allende’s government. In
During the first decade of democracy (1988-98), films faced a La memoria obstinada, Guzmán uses oral testimony told by several
double challenge. They aimed to attract a mass audience to high- voices (linked by history, exile, family ties), to show the break with
light the viability of film and project an interest in the formation past utopias and the frustrations they leave behind, as well as the
of a significant film industry. However, they also wanted to take deep injuries left by the political and military violence of the recent
on the social and political issues emerging from the end of dicta- past of Chile. With this film, broadly discussed within the political-
torship and the democratic transition. Pablo Perelman’s Imagen cultural frame of the left, Guzmán opens a line of inquiry through
Latente (1988) and Ignacio Agüero’s Cien niños esperando un tren an intimate tone raising the possibilities of reconciliation, which
(1988) opened a new era in this sense, being the first films to would characterize subsequent documentaries on the democratic
publicly address the theme of authoritarian rule. Imagen Latente, a process and the collective construction of memory.
dark film, takes place during the dictatorship; it tells the story of a The second path followed by the first wave of Chilean cinema
photographer who tries to find traces of her “missing” brother. The sought to show, comment on or denounce certain deep changes
second film, a subtle documentary, shows the work carried out by brought by the political transition which produced a curious “Real-
a teacher (Alicia Vega, an important investigator of cinema in our ism” that also appeared in the 90s elsewhere in Latin America
country) with a group of children in a film workshop. Less direct, (Gaviria in Colombia, and the first new Argentine cinema). This
but more socially focused than Perelman’s
film, Agüero’s documentary shares with it In Chile, film has played an important social and
an emphasis on the social importance of an
artistic device. In Perelman’s case, it is the cultural role in renewing forms, approaches and
use of the camera, which shifts from being
a fashion and advertising device to record- questions within an ongoing historical process.
ing the truth by capturing the sites of tor-
ture dens. In the Agüero documentary, filmmaking takes a more type of “Realism” is defined in opposition to trends of the 70s, as
playful turn, but it also transforms social reality: in the middle of it flirted with some conventional genres (from black genres to dra-
dictatorship cinema becomes a tool for pedagogy, a way to connect matic and spicy comedy) and sometimes with the rawness and vio-
children who have been segregated by the economic system. In lence of the social situation. The first example was Caluga o Menta
the next years, films would continue to explore both themes: the (Justiniano, 1990), a powerful if crude portrait of the disadvantaged
fresh memories of dictatorship on the one hand, and its legacies of who were brought down by the neo-liberal economics and politics
marginalization and inequality on the other. of the dictatorship. The film also notes the emergence of televi-
Three remarkable works dealing with the first theme are: La sion as social phenomenon. Both themes are even more focused
Frontera (Ricardo Larraín, 1991), Amnesia (Gonzalo Justiano, 1994) in Johnny 100 pesos (Gustavo Graef-Marino, 1994), a thriller that
and La memoria obstinada (Patricio Guzmán, 1996). The first one, features a marginal school boy, member of a gang that assaults a
a co-production of Chile and Spain, won awards abroad (Silver Bear videoclub, an assault that becomes a media and television event. The

52 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0

Movie posters from Chilean films.

film of Graef Marino is a rare case in Chile: his narrative works like n  he rise of dozens of new film festivals that require diversification
a clock in support of his open desire to do commercial cinema that stimulates the industry to grow in quality and specialization, from
still focuses on the social changes and uncertainty of the early 90s. independent cinema to documentary, from underground films to
By the year 2000, this political emphasis (criticism of the media, old films.
and plots centered on marginal situations) had lost its force and film n The birth of a “cultural cinema field” brings out new web sites

moved into popular comedy, which in its best moments (El chaco- that specialize in film criticism (,,
tero sentimental , Galaz, 1999; Historias de Fútbol, Wood, 1997; and and the emergence of a publisher specializing in topics
Sexo con Amor, Quercia, 2004), not only broke box-office records of cinema.
but also created, at the institutional level, the appropriate climate
for the promulgation of the cinema law mentioned earlier. In the last few years there has been an obvious decrease in the
number of spectators who go to the cinema (a transnational phe-
Ruins and reflections nomenon), a problem that has led filmmakers to question the sacred
Agüero’s Aquí se construye (2000) and Wood’s Machuca (2004) both custom of release on the big screen. The year 2008 has been called
started new movements in Chile’s cinema. The first film, a docu- the year of the “audiences’ crisis” for Chilean cinema.
mentary, records the construction of new buildings in bad taste-- in These, among others, are the factors that have contributed to
the residential neighborhoods of Santiago de Chile. With a subtle the diversification of the cinematic milieu in recent years. Today’s
blend of existential and geographic features (the documentary fol- formats, forms and modalities of cinematographic representation are
lows a university teacher who is the observer), Agüero builds an less clearly defined: some documentary films have begun to open to
archaeology of places and emotions about the city. In the process fragmentation and reflection on their language (Ningún lugar en nin-
of reconstruction of neo-Santiago (work of economic neoliberal- guna parte, 2004; Arcana, 2006, Dear Nonna, 2004); some films blur
ism), he finds ghostly ruins and fragments that still inhabit the city. the border between documentary and fiction (El Pejesapo, Obreras
Machuca is a fictional story of a child that takes place during the saliendo de la fábrica, Alicia en el país, El astuto Mono Pinochet contra la
rise and fall of Allende’s government. Projecting a great sense of moneda de los cerdos, 2004), some display the proliferation of an ever
empathy with the audience, the film satisfied the public’s emotional more intimate, literary and confessional “I” (La ciudad de los fotógra-
and personal expectations by showing the social landscapes and the fos, 2006; Calle Santa Fe, 2006; Retrato de Kusak, 2004) and, during
emotional breaks during the period 1970-1973. The film not only the last years, some produce a re-visitation (topographic, fragmented
served as a bridge to establish an open social dialogue about the and discursive) of Santiago (Tony Manero, 2008; Mami te amo, 2008;
events, but also established a “canon” of how to represent 1973, Tiempos Malos, 2009). All of them confirm that even though it is not
a position which is balanced at a middle point between complete possible to establish a clear direction, some of the themes brought
rejection of ideology and full transparency. out at the beginning of democracy will continue to deepen (collective
After 2004, year of the law of cinema, everything suddenly and social memories) and others will have to mutate or to adapt to
changes. new digital technology. What is clear is that whatever happens, the
n Three universities, the Universidad de Valparaíso, Universidad de cinema –the one we are interested in–will know how to adapt to its
Chile and Universidad Católica, offer careers in filmmaking, which times, and it will be necessary then to reinforce the cultural fields of
means the expansion and establishment of formal instruction in reception of these future films, which will tell us about ourselves in
this field. ways that we might not even be able to recognize.
n The number of releases had reached a peak in 2003 with nearly 30

new shows; since the 90s their numbers have doubled and tripled. Iván Pinto Veas is a Chilean film instructor and critic. He has
n Work with digital cameras lowers the costs of production, which taught courses of Film Aesthetic, Latin American Film and Docu-
will lead to the production and even the screening of films in digital mentary Film. He is currently working as an editor and critic for

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 53
cuba and beyond
Interview with Santiago Álvarez p. 54
García Márquez and Cinema p. 58
Cuban Film: What’s New p. 60

From the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) international

film festivals to the International School of Cinema and
Television, chaired by Gabriel García Márquez, Cuban film
has made its presence felt internationally.

Con Santiago Álvarez,

Cronista Del Tercer Mundo
P o r L u c i a n o C a s t i ll o y M a n u el M . H a d a d

antiago alvarez (1919-1998) integra genes de ficción, animación, carteles) con Q: Edmundo Aray llamó Cronista del Tercer
el grupo fundador del Instituto Cubano cierta dosis de ironía y sátira para trasmitir Mundo a la compilación bibliográfica que
del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos su mensaje. Aunque apeló a elementos de realizó de su que hacer cinematográfico, ¿qué
(ICAIC) en 1959. Al año siguiente ficción en su cortometraje El sueño del pongo opina sobre esta definición?
creó el Noticiero ICAIC Latinoamericano, (1970), su única incursión en el largomet- A: Es un poco amplia, seguramente
al que imprimió un estilo particular inno- raje argumental, Los refugiados de la Cueva Edmundo Aray al preparar el libro sobre
vador del periodismo cinematográfico y del Muerto (1983), quedó muy por debajo mi obra y advertir que he recorrido durante
dirigió el Departamento de Cortomet- de las expectativas. treinta años los lugares donde la historia
rajes en el período que va de 1961 a 1967. En un balance de su filmografía es contemporánea ha sido muy fuerte y muy
Rigurosamente internacionalista, Santiago indudable que sus primeros cortometrajes dramática, pensó en lo del Tercer Mundo.
Álvarez recorrió con su cámara más de 90 prevalecen por méritos propios sobre las Yo he estado en Vietnam, Kampuchea,
países. Legó a la historia del cine documen- obras posteriores de mayor duración. Ante Laos, Mozambique, en Angola, Etiopía, en
tal clásicos como Now! (1965) —concep- el descenso de la producción documental varios países de América Latina como son
tuado por algunos de precursor del actual en el cine cubano, el casi octogenario cin- México, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile; todos
video-clip—Ciclón (1963), Hanoi, martes easta, en su infatigable defensa del Cine excepto Haití. Los he visitado, realizado doc-
13 (1967), L.B.J. (1968) y 79 primaveras urgente, incursionó en el vídeo como umentales en todos ellos y es posible que esto
(1969), entre muchos otros. alternativa. Santiago Álvarez —hombre conforme una idea del trabajo de uno como
No es reiterativo señalar que el rasgo fundamental en el que siempre destaca la cronista de los países del Tercer Mundo.
estilístico predominante en la prolífica fuerza de las imágenes— insistió en que “el El trabajo de un cronista cinematográ-
obra de Álvarez —que él llamo documenta- cine documental no es un género menor, fico; no es el de un cronista de prensa escrita
lurgia— es la mezcla extraordinariamente como se cree, sino una actitud ante la vida, ni de otro medio de comunicación, y a
rítmica de las formas visuales y auditivas al ante la injusticia, ante la belleza y la mejor partir de ahí se le habrá ocurrido titular el
apelar a todo lo que esté a su alcance (met- forma de promover los intereses del Tercer libro de esa forma.
raje documental histórico, fotos fijas, imá- Mundo.”
Q: En su amplia filmografía usted cuenta con
This historic interview with Cuban film director Santiago Alvarez, who died in 1998, was first published una considerable cantidad de clásicos pero,
in CINE CUBANO No. 145 July-September, 1999. An English-language version of this interview can ¿existe algún título que sea el que prefiera?
be found at A: Es difícil responder porque cada circun-

54 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0
From top left, clockwise, still image from Los refugiados; El Sueño del Pongo in which cameraman Arturo Agramonte, a historian of Cuban film,
poses as an indigenous person in Santiago Álvarez’ only feature short; Santiago Álvarez at work; and an image from the Cuban film El Ciclón.

stancia ha tenido sus emociones, sus caracterís- las botas militares con las que evitaban los tuviera la experiencia de un joven rebelde
ticas; circunscribirse a uno o dos momentos soldados norteamericanos que le picaran ante la injusticia de su tiempo, si no hubi-
se me dificulta aunque, por ejemplo, Hanoi, las serpientes venenosas, sin el agua potable era trabajado en una hora de radio juvenil
martes 13 a mí me gusta mucho por razones que tomaban los soldados yanquis; llenos de cuando tenía 14 y 15 años, porque tenía
obvias. Primero porque fui protagonista del malaria, de parásitos, hambrientos, lucharon una vocación política, si no hubiera tenido
primer bombardeo a Hanoi por parte de sin descanso contra el agresor de todos los todo este background, creo que la intuición
los agresores yanquis, y segundo, porque el tiempos. Por ellos siento un especial cariño. no daría resultado.
pueblo vietnamita, el conocimiento que he El trabajo que he realizado en esos lugares Puede que sí, que haya algo desde un
tenido de ese pueblo, las quince veces que he penetró muy adentro en mis sentimientos. punto de vista «misterioso» de lo intuitivo,
estado allí —antes, durante y después de la pero es que si lo intuitivo no va ligado a una
guerra—, me ha imbuido de un amor y una Q: Existen tres elementos básicos en su cine realidad que uno ha vivido, la experiencia
pasión por Vietnam, por lo que ha signifi- documental: la edición, la música y la grá- que ha tenido durante esa realidad, no se
cado durante siglos, que ha tenido que estar fica. Sin embargo, Rebeca Chávez, que fuera hubiera convertido en algo intuitivo.
luchando contra todo tipo de imperialismo: asistente suya, lo califica como “el misterio Pongo en duda la concepción de intuición
el feudalismo chino, contra al colonialismo de la intuición”. Cuando planifica un docu- en relación con el trabajo, porque por muy
francés y por último contra el imperialismo mental, ¿realmente surge como un fruto de la intuitivo que uno sea, si tú no tienes una
norteamericano. intuición? base cultural, una experiencia de la realidad
De cierta manera, como he trabajado A: Si la intuición tiene que ver con la magia que viviste, no creo que lo intuitivo saldría a
bastante,—he realizado más de una docena y el misterio, es probable que sea verdad. Sin flote. Hay quien cree que se nace sabio, pero
de documentales sobre ese país—, es posible embargo, me parece que no es realmente nadie nace sabiéndolo todo; sino que a través
que me atraiga sentimentalmente ese tra- lo más correcto decir que el trabajo mío del tiempo se educa, aprende, obtiene expe-
bajo contínuo allí; aparte de las caracterís- es intuitivo solamente. Si yo no hubiera riencias de la vida, recibe esa experiencia, la
ticas muy especiales que tiene su pueblo, tenido la experiencia que tuve en mi vida, reelabora mentalmente, sentimentalmente;
que con sus manos, pies y modo de luchar si no hubiera estado en los Estados Uni- entonces sale lo intuitivo. Una vez explicado
contra el enemigo, venció al más grande de dos, si no hubiera trabajado de lavaplatos por mí qué estimo como intuitivo, si es lo
los imperialismos de todas las épocas, al más en Nueva York, si no hubiera sido minero, que se comprende por el trabajo que he real-
sofisticado de todos los imperialismos. Un si no hubiera realizado todo el trabajo ante- izado en treinta años como cineasta, bueno,
pueblo pobre, semidesnudo, sin zapatos, sin rior a cuando empecé a hacer cine, si no aceptemos entonces que es intuitivo.

p h o t o g r ap h s c o u r t es y o f icaic fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 55

film In latin America

Q: Una de las etapas importantes en su for- A: Jamás escribo guiones. Esta confesión a realizar mi película.
mación fue aquella en que trabajó vinculado toda voz puede extrañar a muchos compa- El guión está en la propia canción, es
a la música en una emisora radial. ¿Le ayudó ñeros, no realizo los guiones convencionales decir, vas siguiendo la canción y escribes
a dominar el ritmo en cuanto a la música? con los que muchos colegas trabajan o los el guión, eso es en el caso de este docu-
A: Sí, es un elemento en mi vida, una parte obligan a trabajar. mental.
fundamental. por eso es que digo que lo El guión de mis documentales está en En el caso de otros sobre Vietnam, ¿qué
intuitivo lo pongo en duda. Si no hubiera mi cerebro y en mis sentimientos. Es como guión yo iba a hacer? No sabía lo que iba
trabajado en el Departamento de archivos si yo fuera una computadora humana y a pasar. Cuando llegamos, la guerra estaba
musicales de la emisora CMQ en la época tuviera un background de experiencias de la caminando, y estaban a punto de empezar
en que lo hice, clasificando la música que vida y entonces, de vez en cuando, apriete los bombardeos. Las noticias eran terribles
sobre la agresión tremenda del imperio
yanqui. Decidí ir a ese país para ser soli-
In this historical interview, Cuban filmmaker Santiago dario con su pueblo, aunque no teníamos
Álvarez talks about his life work and film in Cuba. suficiente equipamiento; fuimos con una
cámara de 16 milímetros de cuerda y con un
You can read this interview in English at <http:// popurrí de varios tipos de películas: inglesas,
norteamericanas, italianas, que nos habían>. regalado las delegaciones que constante-
mente visitaban a Cuba al principio de la
se compraba para los programas radiales y una tecla y produzca determinado hecho Revolución.
de televisión, si no me hubiera entrenado cinematográfico, o me remita a un pasado Con esas películas en blanco y negro, en
en clasificar el sentimiento musical para ser que me sirva de guión en el tiempo para 16 mm, de diferentes nacionalidades, con
usado después, no me habría dado cuenta poder realizar un trabajo determinado. cámaras que cuando tú le das cuerda nada
de la capacidad de poder musicalizar algo Por ejemplo, Now! es un documental más que dura tres minutos la secuencia que
con un sentimiento musical. Debido a que no nació por intuición ni por el arte estás filmando, entonces, tienes que volver
que trabajé años allí, es posible que haya misterioso de un creador. Nace porque pre- a poner otro rollito, sin grabadoras, sin
desarrollado una especie de temperamento viamente tenía la experiencia vivida en los luces; yo llevaba una batería que me habían
musical, que aprendiera a utilizar la música Estados Unidos, lo que vi con mis propios prestado los soviéticos cuando pasamos por
para determinados momentos de una oper- ojos sobre la discriminación racial. En un Moscú; una batería que parecía un tanque,
ación estética. momento determinado en que las circun- pesaba como diablo. Le llamaba palangana,
El hecho de haber estado en CMQ me stancias se tornaron propicias para hablar y eso es lo que parecía: una palangana para
facilitó ese entrenamiento, ese desarrollo contra la discriminación, tuve ese hecho iluminar. Ese fue el equipo que nosotros
del «oído musical». Siempre me ha gustado del pasado, almacenado en mi cerebro, y llevamos a Vietnam.
la música. He guardado los discos que me entonces lo utilicé para realizar Now!. ¿Qué guión iba a hacer? Al día siguiente
regalan; a mi esposa también le gusta la Escuché la canción Now! porque un de haber llegado, empezaron los bom-
música y me ayuda mucho en eso de la cla- líder negro, llamado Robert Williams, de bardeos a Hanoi. Teníamos noticias de que
sificación para futuros momentos musicales visita en Cuba me regaló un disco. Visi- en cualquier momento los norteamerica-
que pueda utilizar. taba su casa, era su amigo, y un buen día nos iban a bombardear ciudades abiertas
Por eso insisto en que lo intuitivo es muy me puso un disco y dijo: “Mira a ver qué como la capital. De acuerdo con las leyes
relativo porque sin ese entrenamiento, con te parece esto”; y era la música de Hava internacionales, no puede bombardearse
mucha intuición, a lo mejor no hubiera Nagila. Le pregunté: “¿Tú me lo prestas?; una ciudad abierta; una ciudad no tiene
logrado desarrollar ese «oído musical» para ¿me lo regalas”? Y me lo regaló. Entonces, propósito de invadir a alguien, ni guarda
emplear la música en determinadas secuen- de oírlo varias veces se me ocurrió realizar equipamientos militares. Sin embargo, así
cias de un documental o de un noticiero. un documental exactamente con el tiempo sucedió.
que tiene esa canción. No sabía qué iba a suceder en el
Q: En el proceso de la creación, existen dos for- Lógicamente, yo había pasado ya por momento que estábamos allí. Ignoraba
mas en que usted ha asumido el documental: una experiencia sobre lo que era la dis- cómo iba a realizar el trabajo. El primer día
unas veces como en Mi hermano Fidel, que criminación racial en los Estados Unidos y que llegamos, empecé a buscar los lugares
fue un documental accidental, surgido como cuando escuché la música de Now!, empecé donde intuía que posiblemente podían
fruto de la entrevista realizada a Fidel Castro a retrotraer de mi archivo musical lo que empezar los bombardeos, como por ejem-
para el largometraje La guerra necesaria... habría de ser después el documental. No plo, el puente sobre el Río Rojo. Yo dije:
A: Un sub-producto. existió un guión sino todo un pasado que «este puente seguro va a ser un blanco para
se impresionó en mi retina y en mis células ser bombardeado»; bueno, esa intuición de
Q: Sí, un subproducto magistral, pero, ¿existen cerebrales y cuando fui a poner en práctica creer que iba a ser bombardeado; empecé a
documentales en los que usted ha elaborado el el rechazo a esa situación política de dis- tomar notas de los lugares en que íbamos a
guión antes de filmarlos, o verdaderamente ha criminación racial, surgió la experiencia que filmar en el caso del inminente bombardeo
filmado y después reelaborado? tuve en un momento determinado, y pude a Hanoi. No existía ningún guión.

56 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0
cuba and beyond

Sucedió el bombardeo, y de todo lo que terminan de editar no le ponen la música, oral. Y es la música, son las letras de las
filmamos indistintamente empezamos a sino que voy simultáneamente preparando canciones las que utilizo como elemento
ver, a buscar detalles adicionales para poder la música. En realidad, no existe un guión narrativo del documental. El cine en estado
completar el hecho del bombardeo. Es en el convencional. puro, realmente.
cuarto de montaje, una vez que ya uno ve Creo que el documental, igual que un
todos los rushes, los cuelga en el perchero, noticiero, es «toma uno». El documental se Manuel M. Hadad es Licenciado en
los analiza, que empieza a hacer un «guión», parece mucho al trabajo del noticiero, es Historia del Arte y Periodismo en la Uni-
un posible guión de cómo va a montar la «toma uno» también. Esto te evita tener que versidad de Oriente (Santiago de Cuba).
película. usar un guión, porque lo vas preparando en El labora en la emisora Radio Victoria
Además, en tanto no me surge la idea la medida que vas filmando cosas, hechos (Las Tunas). Es crítico de cine, miembro
de un título de un documental, no puedo que te van a servir después para unirlos en el de UNEAC, de la Unión de Periodistas
empezar a montarlo, tengo que tener el montaje, poner una imagen tras otra, emp- de Cuba y de la Asociación Cubana de la
título pensado ya para, a partir de él, comen- iezas a utilizar el lenguaje típico del cine que Prensa Cinematográfica.
zar a estructurar un documental cualquiera. es el montaje.
El título, para mí, viene a ser como una Luciano Castillo es crítico, investigador
célula donde se encuentran todos los hechos Q: El uso excepcional de la entrevista como e historiador cinematográfico cubano. Ha
hereditarios que van a servir de elementos recurso en su obra, que contrasta con el cine publicado muchos libros, incluyendo Con
para conformar la idea después titulada documental contemporáneo, no solamente la locura de los sentidos; Ramón Peón,
guión; es decir, uno debe llevar cualquier cubano, donde existe un abuso de las entre- el hombre de los glóbulos negros, Car-
hecho que quiera filmar como un diario: vistas y escasa elaboración cinematográfica. pentier en el reino de la imagen, El cine
señalar lo que creas que es más importante A: La mayor parte de mis documentales no cubano a contraluz. El es jefe de la Medi-
en ese día. Ese diario lo conviertes después tienen entrevistas ni tampoco narración; ateca “André Bazin” de la Escuela Inter-
dentro del cuarto de montaje en una espe- siempre trato de evitarlas. Cuando no me nacional de Cine y TV de San Antonio de
cie de cartilla o de guión. Hasta tanto no queda más remedio, las utilizo, como por los Baños, miembro del Consejo Nacional
tienes todo el material revelado, los rushes, ejemplo, en La guerra necesaria. Es otro de la Unión de Escritores y Artistas de
el título, inclusive ya estás pensando en la estilo donde uso la narración, el locutor, Cuba y Vicepresidente de la Asociación
música. En resumen: yo edito y no hago pero deliberadamente, la mayor parte del Cubana de la Prensa Cinematográfica
como otros compañeros que hasta que no trabajo que he realizado es sin narración (filial de la Fipresci)

Nelson Palacios: Director Ecuatoriano

P o r M i g u el Alve a r

Este año no tengo una película favorita, tengo varias. Todas son la ciudad en pos de su madre perdida.
ecuatorianas, producidas con bajísimos presupuestos por autodi- Pero dejando de lado su abundante filmografía (12 largomet-
dactas y tremendamente populares a pesar de que no se exhiben rajes en los últimos cuatro años), lo que sorprende aún más de
ni en las pantallas de los cines, ni en los festivales o canales de Palacios es su particular mecanismo de financiamiento. Al final de
televisión. Estas películas, con títulos sugerentes como “Sicarios cada largometraje coloca un cartel con un teléfono al cual pueden
Manabitas”, “Lágrimas de una madre” o “El dolor de ser pobre”, llamar las personas interesadas en actuar en su próxima produc-
se venden a un dólar en un mercado gigantesco de contrabando, ción. Una vez establecido el contacto Nelson escribe el libreto y
filmes y música pirata, conocido como La Bahía, en la ciudad por- su empresa familiar—Capricho producciones—alista las cámaras
tuaria de Guayaquil. y el resto del elenco. La actriz o el actor invitado corren con los
El más prolífico de estos realizadores underground es Nelson gastos de rodaje, -aproximadamente unos quinientos dólares- para
Palacios quien solamente este año ha producido tres largomet- comprar los casets, comida y solventar el transporte. A cambio,
rajes: “El retorno del llanero vengador”, “Mundo real” y “No me una vez terminado el film, el actor o actriz recibe una copia de
dejes mamá”. En el primero Palacios recrea—en el contexto mon- la edición final, con autorización para reproducirla cuantas veces
tubio de la costa ecuatoriana—los ranchera westerns que viera quiera. Así recupera su inversión y gana mucha fama entre los
como niño en los cines de la ciudad de Milagro. En el segundo, miles de seguidores de este peculiar director ecuatoriano.
nos cuenta la historia de un pastor evangélico en un mundo
donde la línea entre el bien y el mal es más clara que el agua. Y Miguel Alvear es un artista visual y productor de películas que reside en
en el tercero, un melodrama de proporciones que hará brotar más Quito, Ecuador. Actualmente dirige la investigación “Ecuador Bajo Tierra”,
de una lágrima, el realizador retoma un tema recurrente en su sobre videografías marginales de su país la misma que será publicada en
filmografía: la niña abandonada que recorre las calles hostiles de Septiembre de este año.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 57
film In latin America

García Márquez and Cinema

Beyond Adaptations
By María Lourdes Cortés

“ relations with cinema (...) are those

of a marriage on bad terms. That is to
say, I cannot live with cinema or without
cinema, and judging from the quantity
of offers I receive from producers, cinema
feels the same way about me.”
—Gabriel García Márquez

abriel garcia marquez’s passion for
film has always been constant and mul-
tifaceted. He has written film reviews;
he has produced an extensive report
about filmmaker Miguel Littin, Clandestine
in Chile; he has led script workshops; he has
adapted other writers’ stories and novellas
as well as his own tales for the cinema; and
nearly twenty Latin American, Iberian, and
European directors have used his pieces to
produce works for the big screen. Moreover,
he has created a foundation for New Latin
American Cinema, and a School of Cin-
ema and Television for the Third World.
The relationship between film and García
Márquez is, as he himself confesses, a “mar-
riage on bad terms,” but it has nevertheless
borne multiple fruits.
During recent years there has been an
increase in “cinematographic Gabomania”
since the release in 2007 of the Colombian
author’s sole Hollywood movie to date:
Love in the Time of Cholera, directed by
Mike Newell. The film production com-
pany Argos this year begins filming Noticia
de un secuestro (“News of a Kidnapping”),
and Costa Rican filmmaker Hilda Hidalgo,
a graduate of the school founded by the
author, is finishing her adaptation of Del
amor y otros demonios (“Of Love and Other
Demons”), which was offered to her by Gabriel García Márquez in his office, 1973
García Márquez himself at the end of one of
his workshops, and which has now become reporter for El Espectador to enroll in the “…with twenty dollars in his pocket, his
the most ambitious film in Central Ameri- renowned Experimental Cinematographic woman, a son, and an idea fixed in his
can cinema. García Márquez’s fondness for Center in Rome; notwithstanding, he left head: to make cinema.”
the seventh art—sparked by his grandfather after only a couple of months, disappointed
Nicolás Márquez, “who had taken him by by the academic focus of the Center. Mexican producer Manuel Barbachano
the hand in Aracataca to see the films of Still, his passion for film did not wear Ponce offered him an opportunity to work
Tom Mix”—finally blossomed through his out so easily: he returned to Barranquilla on his adaptation of El gallo de oro, a text by
work as a film critic beginning in Febru- planning to establish a film school, a proj- Juan Rulfo, done in collaboration with Car-
ary of 1954. The cinema-loving Gabo took ect that he wrote up but never realized. In los Fuentes. Soon, they the producers began
advantage of a trip to Europe in 1955 as a 1961, he traveled to Mexico: to take an interest in the writer himself, and

58 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 p h o t o g r ap h b y g e t t y ima g es
cuba and beyond

García Márquez ceded the rights to his story años de soledad (“One Hundred Years of School of Cinema and Television (EICTV),
“En este pueblo no hay ladrones” so that Solitude”) (1967). which has allowed more than 800 youths
Alberto Isaac and Emilio García Riera could The publication and success of this to learn about the film trade – youths who,
produce it for the big screen. book, which turned him into a world- without his figure, would have never pursued
In 1964, García Márquez wrote his famous writer, changed the trajectory of their interests in film. Gabo is the great father
first original script, Tiempo de morir, an his career. From then on, directors would of all young Latin American filmmakers,
old idea which in that era he called El come looking for him to adapt his novellas many of whom have already won interna-
charro. The script was written expressly and stories: María de mi corazón (1979), tional awards. Like Hilda Hidalgo, they are
for Arturo Ripstein, and the dialogues by Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, Eréndira adapting the work of the “father,” but adding
were adapted by Carlos Fuentes. The work (1982), by Ruy Guerra, La viuda de Montiel a very personal vision of Del amor y otros
marked the beginning of the career of the (1979), by the Chilean Miguel Littin, El demonios: a feminine view, a love story, the
now renowned Mexican director, Ripstein. mar del tiempo perdido (1981), by Solveig first film of an EICTV student. A challenge
Later on, between 1983 and 1985, Colom- Hoogesteijn, Un señor muy viejo con unas that Hilda accepted with a smile and with
bian director Jorge Alí Triana produced two alas enormes (1988), by Fernando Birri, and the complicity of the master.
versions of the same script, one for film and Oedipo alcalde (1996), Jorge Alí Triana’s
the other for television, and Rodrigo García, contemporary adaptation of Sophocles’ María Lourdes Cortés is the director of
son of the Nobel Prize winner, also pro- Oedipus Rex. In 1997, the Italian Francesco the Fondo de fomento al audiovisual de
duced a version of the same script. Rosi adapted Crónica de una muerte anun- Centroamérica y el Caribe, the Founda-
García Márquez continued to contrib- ciada (“Chronicle of a Death Foretold”) tion for Central American and Caribbean
ute to the works of Ripstein and of Luis and in 1998, Ripstein filmed El coronel no Audiovisual Promotion. A professor at the
Alcoriza, such as Presagio (1974), consid- tiene quien le escriba (“No One Writes to the Universidad de Costa Rica and a researcher
ered by some critics to be the best film from Colonel”). Additionally, numerous televi- for the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Lati-
this early stage. sion series and short films have been pro- noamericano, she is author of Amor y tra-
While making Presagio, García Márquez duced by students of the Script Workshop ición: cine y literatura en América Latina
realized that he was writing something very with the collaboration of the Master. (1999) and La pantalla rota: Cien años
similar to what he wanted to express in a Nevertheless, we believe that García de cine en Centroamérica (2005). She is
literary form. He shut himself away for Márquez’s fundamental contribution to film currently working on a book about García
eighteen months and emerged with Cien was the founding of Cuba’s International Márquez and film.

Medellín bajo escrutinio

P o r C l a u d i a Mej i a T r u j i ll o

“El cine es el arte de los lugares” escribió alguna vez Víctor representada. No era fácil identificarme—aceptarme como parte
Gaviria, y efectivamente, yo descubría lugares nuevos en cada de esa imagen, pero agradecí que me confrontara con el silencio
película de mi juventud: un parque en Nueva York, una avenida que trata siempre de imponerse en mi conservadora ciudad.
en París, una iglesia en un pueblo de España. Llegaban a mí Desde entonces, seguí de cerca la trayectoria del director que
como imágenes de espacios remotos que me abrían el apetito me había ayudado a entenderme. Estudié sus películas como una
por conocer el mundo, pero no podía reconocerme en ninguna nueva revelación para mí y comencé a difundirlas. Tuve, inclusive,
de ellas. la alegría de conocer a Víctor en persona y de invitarlo a partici-
Un día, viviendo ya en otro país, me encontré, inesperada- par en un cine foro para inmigrantes como yo. Al final de la prim-
mente, con mi realidad. En una escena un grupo de muchachos, era proyección, escuché la recriminación: ¿Por qué muestra usted
que hablaban con un acento que reconocía aunque no podía la cara mala de Colombia? y quise llorar. Todavía no entendíamos
descifrar todas sus palabras, saltaban por unos techos y al fondo, nada, llevábamos el silencio adentro. El cine es el arte de los
como un muro, había unas montañas que me eran familiares. lugares y de la gente que los habita. A veces no nos gusta lo que
Eran esas mismas montañas que me habían oprimido hasta hac- refleja, pero dejar de mirar no hará que la realidad desaparezca.
erme salir de la tierra en que nací y crecí. Reconocí mi ciudad, Mirarnos, sea quizás el primer paso para descifrar qué es lo que
mirada desde lo más intimo, lo más difícil. Era una realidad sin le pasa a nuestra atormentada ciudad.
traducir, sin embellecer, y se sentía como una palmada en la
cara. Allí estaba la indiferencia que permitía que los jóvenes
perdieran la vida, la violencia como solución, el dinero como Claudia M. Mejía Trujillo is a graduate student of Medieval Literature
goce efímero de una existencia que no tenía sentido. Era la pri- at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. She is currently living in the
mera vez que lo veía en una pantalla y me sentí dolorosamente Middle East

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 59
film In latin America

Cuban Film
What’s New
b y V i c t o r F o w le r c a l z a d a

he contemporary situation of mentary image, projected to domestic and events are organized from within ICAIC or
Cuban film cannot be separated from international audiences. The ICAIC Latin by people closely linked with the Institute,
the very existence of the Cuban Revo- American newscast, under the direction of they are not part of the system of the Cuban
lution. Although the first Cuban film documentary filmmaker Santiago Álvarez, mega-organization’s public actions.
was produced as early as 1906 (El parque was the vehicle for transmitting a vision for Several factors have led to the emergence
de Palatino), the creation of the Instituto the construction of a new society in which of a new generation of documentary film-
Cubano de la Industria Cinematográfica collective effort, constructive criticism, makers within the country: ICAIC’s focus
(ICAIC—the Cuban Film Institute) on confrontation with imperialism, and con- on the production of feature films; the
March 24, 1959, changed everything. Since fidence in the future and internationalism impact of the so-called Special Period on
then—only two months and three weeks prevailed. the new generation of Cubans; the growing
after the beginning of the Revolution—all Once the Cuban film industry was number of film graduates from the Instituto
matters involving film were concentrated threatened with total bankruptcy, co- Superior de Arte/ Arts High School and the
in ICAIC. These include equipment pur- productions seemed the best formula for Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión
chases, production, processing, interna- survival. Spain was particularly generous de San Antonio de los Baños/ International
tional and domestic distribution, training in financing these endeavors. Milestones of School of Film and Television; and the avail-
of film professionals, education of popular contemporary Cuban film (Fresa y chocolate, ability of less expensive equipment for film-
taste and, to no small extent, film criticism. La vida es silbar, Suite Habana, among oth- ing and processing audiovisual materials.
Consequently, ICAIC has long played a ers) owe their existence to co-productions, Unlike previous productions, current films
significant role in Cuban cultural life and but so too do a great number of films with propose a vision of national reality charac-
today reflects the challenges and contradic- little or no cultural aspirations. terized by a sharp-edged critical intention
tions facing the film industry in Cuba. As part of ICAIC’s 50th anniversary cel- to deal with the troubles of contemporary
The words “Film is an art,” written in ebrations, the Cuban Association of Film Cuban society. Individuals such as Gustavo
the original declaration that established Journalists conducted a poll to select the Pérez, Alina Rodríguez, Susana Barriga or
ICAIC as a revolutionary institution, set the “most significant” films produced between Aram Vidal are doing some of the most
stage for the high standards demanded of 1959 and 2008. Published in March 17, interesting documentary work in the pres-
Cuban filmmaking by critics and the gen- 2009, in Boletín ICAIC Digital, the results ent decade. In addition to these filmmakers,
eral public, as well as by the filmmakers showed that four films from the 1960s all film professionals who are graduates of
themselves. This phrase also helps to explain figured among the top seven films; after Cuba’s film schools in recent years have seen
some of the gaps, difficulties or historical 1994, only one film in that category could the emergence of the Faculty of the Art of
fluctuations of Cuban filmmaking. Cuban be found, in twelfth place. In a separate cat- Behavior (Cátedra de Arte de Conducta),
cinematography has been characterized by egory, twelve out of the fifteen most signifi- Tania Bruguera’s complex visual arts proj-
high artistic standards and loyalty to the cant documentary films were made in the ect that operated from 2003 to 2009. Bru-
Revolution, while at the same time reflect- 60s, one in 1980, one in 1990, and only guera sought to facilitate change and artistic
ing the contradictions and problems of the one after 2000 (Suite Habana, 2003). These growth for participants who attended work-
national reality; the industry’s rejection of results certainly seem to suggest a nostalgic shops, conference series or forums with
simple entertainment in movies, as well as imaginary anchored in the moments when world-renowned artists and special guests.
of genre films, eschatological visions, van- a new national film industry was being cre- These young men and women, some of
guard experimentation and the presence of ated simultaneously with the new life fos- whom had no previous specialized train-
censorship, are some of its direct and indi- tered by the triumphant Revolution in the ing, created audiovisual documents that are
rect corollaries, gaps or problems. social arena. among the most interesting made in Cuba
At the beginning of the 1990s, during Documentary film today is a good exam- in the present decade. In this context it is
the country’s most severe economic crisis, ple of a changing scene, dominated by the worth mentioning Adrián Melis (Aquí todo
the film industry virtually stopped produc- works presented annually at the Muestra el mundo me cuida, 2006) and Javier Castro,
tion. Even the emblem of the revolution, de Nuevos Realizadores/ New Filmmak- a Cátedra graduate (Yo no le tengo miedo a
the ICAIC newscast, disappeared in 1990 ers Showcase (2001), the Festival de Cine la eternidad, 2006).
because producers could not acquire raw Pobre/ Film Festival of the Poor (2000) and If, for many long years, Cuba had pro-
film or pay for the costs of developing film the Festival de Documentales “Santiago duced films that—given the relationship
and post-production work. From the very Álvarez in Memoriam”/Documentary Fes- between the characters and history—could
beginning of the Revolution, one primary tival “In Remembrance of Santiago Álvarez” be interpreted as allegories of the nation, the
achievement has been this type of docu- (2000). Despite the fact that these three present gives us works that try to recuper-

60 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0
cuba and beyond

ate the old conventions of Hollywood-style Gutiérrez Alea’s feature film, Fresa y choco-
movies, resulting in films that are bereft TOP TEN MOST late, that has garnered most international
of any ideological discourse. Examples SIGNIFICANT CUBAN distribution, marking the high point in
are Frutas en el café (Humberto Padrón, FILMS national cinematography since the mythic
2005), Omertá (Pavel Giroud, 2008), the years of the first decade of the triumph of
unreleased Mata, que Dios perdona (Ismael 1959-2008 the Revolution. The film tells the story of
Perdomo and the recent Los dioses rotos (Asociación Cubana de la Prensa the friendship between a young Communist
(Ernesto Daranas, 2008). Another example Cinematográfica) Party member (David) and a homosexual
of this trend is the work of Eduardo del (Diego), forced into exile because of preju-
Llano (a humorist and ICAIC screenwriter, FEATURE FILMS dice and low-level political manipulation.
as well as an independent filmmaker) and 1. Memorias del subdesarrollo Fresa y chocolate presented the very sensitive
Jorge Molina (who has acted in some ICAIC (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea) 1968 theme of emigration to the public for the
films, but writes and directs his own inde- 2. Lucía ( Humberto Solás) 1968 first time and earned much-deserved success.
pendent films). They have directed six short 3. Fresa y chocolate In its subplot, the story functions as a tale of
films that have a profound impact on the ( T. G. Alea y Juan Carlos Tabío) learning (within the realm of culture, par-
national scene—without any support (proj- 1993 ticularly national culture) for David, who is
ect approval and subsequent backing) or 4. Madagascar ( Fernando Pérez) taken under his wing by Diego. Since then,
financing from ICAIC. 1994 other authors have revisited the theme of
Cuba produces about four long feature 5. Papeles secundarios emigration, resulting in feature films such as
films yearly. Thus, a short film is enough to (Orlando Rojas) 1989 Video de familia (Humberto Padrón, 2002),
shake up critics, audiences and the govern- 6. La muerte de un burócrata La ola (Enrique Alvarez, 1995), Nada (Juan
ing sector, as well as to challenge certain (T. G. Alea) 1966 Carlos Cremata, 2001) and Viva Cuba (Juan
aspects of life or the making and meaning 7. La primera carga al machete Carlos Cremata, 2005), as well as documen-
of the films themselves. For example, del (Manuel Octavio Gómez) 1969 tary films such as De-generación (2006) and
Llano’s works have made their mark with the 8.  Retrato de Teresa Ex-generación (2008), both by Aram Vidal.
richness of their staging, stylistic character- (Pastor Vega) 1979 Other important ICAIC films include
istics and the author’s creative transparency, 9. La bella del Alhambra Barrio Cuba (Humberto Solás, 2005), Pági-
ranging from Monte Rouge (parodying the (Enrique Pineda Barnet) 1989 nas del diario de Mauricio (Manuel Pérez,
actions of Cuban police and security forces) 10. La última cena 2006), Madrigal (Fernando Pérez, 2007), El
to Brainstorm (which mercilessly pokes fun (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea) 1976 viajero inmóvil (Tomás Piard, 2008) and Los
at political immobility, media manipulation dioses rotos (Ernesto Daranas, 2008). These
and the silence of officialdom about critical DOCUMENTARIES five movies, with very diverse aesthetic
aspects of Cuban life). 1. Now (Santiago Alvarez ) 1965 intentions, relate small contemporary stories
Molina continues to be the only Cuban 2. Por primera vez through humble characters (Barrio Cuba),
filmmaker who explores the worlds of eroti- (Octavio Cortázar) 1967 propose ample revisions of critical points of
cism, pornography and violence. His latest 3. Suite Habana contemporary Cuban history (Páginas del
film, El hombre que aullaba a la luna (2008), (Fernando Pérez) 2003 diario de Mauricio), give us a dense meta-
also demonstrates powerful personal poetics. 4. Coffea arabiga phoric parable of the national reality in a
Both del Llano and Molina are regular fig- (Nicolás Guillén Landrián) 1968 tale split into a twofold history situated in
ures at film festivals throughout the country; 5. LBJ (Santiago Álvarez ) 1968 the present and in the future (Madrigal),
their productions deserve more recognition 6. Vaqueros del Cauto analyze national culture through the work
than they have enjoyed so far. (Oscar Valdés) 1965 of Cuban writer José Lezama Lima and his
Although it does not exactly fall into 7. Ociel del Toa novel Paradiso (El viajero inmóvil), and pres-
the category of film, the expansion of the (N. Guillén Landrián) 1963 ent an in-depth account of life in Havana’s
video-art scene in Cuba is one of the most 8. Ciclón (Santiago Álvarez) 1963 marginal neighborhoods (Los dioses rotos).
interesting developments in audiovisual 9. Nosotros, la música I believe the sum of all these efforts is
production in the country. This type of (Rogelio París) 1964 enough to demonstrate that Cuban film
work tends to be distributed in a different 10. Hanoi, martes 13 lives on, that this is a moment of great
way than commercial film, but it has had (Santiago Álvarez) 1967 changes, and that surprises lie in store.
considerable cultural impact. Since the first Victor Fowler Calzada is a Cuban poet,
Colloquium of Digital Art, now in its tenth critic and lecturer on film and literature. His
year, the idea of a new audiovisual art (con- for video-art. most recent book of poetry is La obligación de
sisting of video-art, digital film, animation New information technology has opened expresar (Editorial Letras Cubanas, 2008).
and audiovisual stories made for computer) up new territory for artists. This new work He is presently coordinating a series of books
has been flourishing in Cuba.The Havana co-exists with the popularity of Cuba’s more on contemporary international film, written
International Film Festival this year has a traditional film, both in the domestic and by Cuban researchers and to be published by
separate category for experimental work and international realm. To be sure, it is Tomás the ICAIC Press.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 61
Making a

Children in Poverty
An Interdisciplinary Approach
B y A n d r e a R o ll a w i t h M a r y C a t he r i n e A r b o u r

I went together with my daugh- where we worked with our chil- share fond memories of the to interact with their children in
ter, who was in kindergarten dren on different early literacy interaction; I hope that mother ways which foster learning.
at the time, to a parent-child activities related to topics such and her daughter were also UBC is a project that aims
workshop that is part of the as health, rotating from one left with a nice memory. That to reduce educational inequal-
work of the Un Buen Comienzo table to the next. brief moment reminded me ity in Chile by improving the
project in public preschools The mother next to me why I love directing the Un quality of preschool education.
in low-income communities of admitted that she was illiterate Buen Comienzo (UBC) project. By conducting a study of the
Santiago, Chile. The preschool and couldn’t do the activities Beyond the research that we impact of intensive professional
teacher in the school in the with her daughter by herself. are doing, we are also making development on teachers’
Peñalolén municipality spoke I offered to work with her a difference in children’s lives classroom practices, parenting
to a roomful of parents about daughter and asked her to — not only by teaching par- practices, and children’s learn-
the importance of talking with work with mine during the ents and teachers about early ing in 60 preschools, UBC
their children. The teacher workshop. We had a lot of childhood development, but seeks to enhance educational
then invited us to a classroom, fun, and my daughter and I also by encouraging parents and public-health capacity

62 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0
Portraits of children who participate in the early childhood
programs of Un Buen Comienzo.

relevant to early childhood in UBC is interdisciplinary by problems our children face in ist in language and literacy
Chile, an important element for nature, including the Harvard the real world. For example, development, have understood
the donor, Andrónico Luksic. Graduate School of Education, during the workshop, the little more deeply through this proj-
The intervention is implemented Harvard Medical School, Har- girl with whom I was working ect. There are issues that are
by his Fundación Educacional vard School of Public Health, asked me to take her to the important for our children but
Oportunidad, while the exter- the David Rockefeller Center bathroom. I accompanied her that sometimes I forget as a
nal evaluation is conducted by for Latin American Studies, and and reminded her to wash her researcher because I look at
the Universidad Diego Portales. the Center on the Developing hands before returning to the the classroom through my own
The rigorous evaluation of the Child as participants. At UBC classroom, a preventive health disciplinary lens at the expense
intervention will produce valu- we focus on three major areas: practice that we have incorpo- of others.
able knowledge that informs language and literacy, socio- rated into our intervention in
early childhood policy; its com- emotional development, and the project.
prehensiveness, which encom- health. We have created an The importance of making Andrea Rolla is Director of
passes children’s development interdisciplinary team of teach- sure this little girl washed her Un Buen Comienzo and a Research
as well as practices in the class- ers, psychologists, and physi- hands to prevent illness so Associate at the Harvard University
room and at home, will allow cians to tackle the work, which that she can stay healthy and Graduate School of Education and
us to understand both processes has helped us understand the attend school is one of the at the Center on the Developing
and results. interdisciplinary nature of the many lessons that I, a special- Child.

A physician’s Perspective
As a physician who works on the project, I spend much of my time taking care of the sick, prioritizing and providing for their
physical needs. Un Buen Comienzo is special in part because it integrates the basic health and physical well-being of growing
preschoolers and their parents into a larger project which acknowledges and incorporates many of the other equally impor-
tant things families need to be healthy and happy, not only at this crucial stage of development but well into the future. This
approach reflects real life. Last year, one of the children in our program missed 45% of school days. He has asthma; his mother
only got through the 4th grade; she works cleaning houses and suffers from depression—so which of the social, economic,
educational or health disadvantages is the main cause of his lower academic achievement? UBC treats all of them. Our interdis-
ciplinary team integrates expertise across academic disciplines in hopes of redressing the disparities we know to be associated
with these factors. It is an incredibly challenging and enriching effort.

Mary Catherine Arbour is an Associate Physician for Research at the Division of Global Health Equity, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a Senior
Research Associate at the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. She is also an Instructor at Harvard Medical School.

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 63
book talk

Contesting Civilization’s Destiny

David Maybury-Lewis, Theodore Macdonald and Biorn Maybury-Lewis (eds.) Manifest Destinies and Indigenous Peoples. The David
Rockefeller Center Series on Latin American Studies, Harvard University, 2009.

A Rev i e w b y M a r í a C le m e n c i a R a m í r e z

This book is a tribute to the Xavante people of Brazil in narianism (to coin a phrase)
work of David Maybury-Lewis, the late 1950s, which his son became the very idiom of the
the late and distinguished Pro- Biorn also experienced as a whole project of expansion”
fessor Emeritus at Harvard’s toddler. (p. 26). The mission of the
Department of Anthropology, The book’s historical per- United States was to propa-
where I had the honor to be spective and its emphasis gate democracy on the North
his student and advisee. It on North America allow us American continent, and its
is his last book and a con- to explore another question ultimate goal was to liberate
tinuation of his life’s work: the beyond its own primary con- humanity.
examination of another aspect cern: the means by which the Stephanson shows how
of what governments have long United States was constructed these ideas inform the actions
called “the Indian question,” a as a nation whose “destiny” taken in the conquest of the
topic to which Maybury-Lewis was to bring civilization not national territory “conceived
dedicated himself from both only to the lands within its own not as war but as ´pacifica-
an academic and an applied borders, but beyond them as tion´” (p.33) that were directed the modern civilized nation
perspective. well, thus legitimizing its role toward the western territories is constructed and the politics
The book provides a com- as an expanding empire and of the United States in order of destiny are implemented.
parative analysis of policies producing the national imagi- to promote freedom, eliminate The differences among the
in the United States, Canada, nary that has lasted to this wilderness, and institute a pri- countries discussed refer to the
Argentina, Brazil, and Chile day. In this vein, the chapter vate property regime as a sym- origin and nature of policies
in the second half of the nine- by Richard White discusses bol of national independence and the actions to be taken, in
teenth century to legitimize the rise of U.S. corporations and a means to make the land keeping with each nation’s self-
state expansion into territory in the mid-19th century and productive. This was justifiable image and representation. The
inhabited by indigenous the extent to which state and since Native Americans were elucidation of these differences
peoples within their national corporate activities would result represented as lacking any is the most important contribu-
boundaries. in the separation of indigenous conception of property and tion of the book.
Four chapters concern the peoples from their lands in the unable to produce beyond the Anders Stephanson,
United States and Canada name of development. level of subsistence. Thus they Edward Chamberlain and
and the other three deal with In his chapter, Anders had no intrinsic right to the Roger L. Nichols contrast
South America. Theodore Stephanson explores the land. English relations with indig-
Macdonald’s introduction sum- ideological content of the All of the chapters refer to enous peoples in their direct
marizes the authors’ central idea of Manifest Destiny, a the existence of internal fron- colonial possessions with the
concerns and debates, while catchphrase that was coined tiers or the relation between indigenous policies of the colo-
an afterword by Professor by John O’ Sullivan in 1840 the center and the periphery nies’ successor governments.
Maybury-Lewis’s son, Biorn according to which the United of states. These relations cor- All three authors highlight
Maybury-Lewis, discusses the States was “the nation of respond to a contrast between indigenous policies in Canada
life of his father not only as a human progress” and no per- what is considered civilized that continued the English
respected academic but also son or thing could constrain and savage. Frontier areas are “protectionist” approach fol-
as an intellectual committed it in this, its intrinsic mission represented as places where lowed since 1670, based on
to the welfare of indigenous (p. 25). Stephanson indicates barbarity reigns, places that by the premise that the newcom-
peoples. These dual commit- that “the massive expansionist rights should be integrated into ers should deal justly with the
ments date back to Dr. May- moves of the 1840s entailed the nation as represented by Indians, learn their languages,
bury-Lewis’s eighteen months a much more centered politics the center, where development and protect their territories and
of intensive fieldwork with the of ‘destiny,’” and that “desti- takes place and from which possessions (p. 175).

64 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0
book talk

Nichols points out that by active attacks, Iberian-style living there were not only sav- campaign for the “Pacifica-
1877, “while American author- crusades, and the promotion of ages, but invaders from neigh- tion of Araucania (Mapuche
ities treated tribal peoples as colonization by foreign immi- boring Chile who should be Territory),” a period of intense
enemies or at least obstacles to grant populations. expelled, if not exterminated. military activity between 1866
national growth and develop- In the case of Argentina, Briones and Delrio conclude and 1881, breaking a peace
ment, early Canadian lead- the pursuit of order, prog- that to the Argentine govern- treaty between the Mapuche
ers considered First Nations ress, and civilization took ment, the task of governing and the Marquis de Baydes
people as military and diplo- on dramatic dimensions. the national territory included reached in 1641 after a major
matic allies” (p. 151). At the For example, General Julio populating these empty spaces. uprising in 1598. This treaty
end of the nineteenth century Argentino Roca led a series of This was seen as “a vital con- gave the Mapuche the right to
Canadian and U.S. policies military campaigns between stituent of the national Project self-government, and although
grew steadily more similar, 1878 and 1885 collectively and Destiny.” Unlike the U.S. their culture had flourished with
and by the beginning of the known as the “Conquest of the idea of expanding into new the incorporation of foreign
20th century their common pur- Desert,” seeking to annex the territories, the Argentineans elements such as the use of
suit of advanced civilization, Indian territories of La Pampa spoke of recovering territory. horses, people at the center
progress, and the construction and Patagonia. Claudia Bri- imagined the south as largely
of homogeneous nation-states ones and Walter Delrio argue As the 20th century neared its uninhabited, with only a few
justified to their governments that this policy was designed end, the results of these de-Indi- small indigenous groups on
the goal of eliminating the to transform La Pampa and anization and extermination the verge of extinction. Dur-
indigenous peoples, now seen Patagonia “into a sociological policies allowed Argentina to ing the 19th century Chilean
as obstacles to meeting those ‘desert’ through de-tribalization define itself as having either no expansion toward its northern
objectives. and practical extermination Indians or perhaps only a few and southern borders was seen
In Argentina, Brazil, and that extended well beyond the remnant groups. The authors as a civilizing process entail-
Chile (and unlike in Canada period of military campaigns” present testimony from elderly ing the Chileanization of the
representatives of indigenous Aymaras in the north and the
groups who describe their extermination of the indigenous
This book, in presenting the work of silent resistance in the face of peoples of the south. Although
continuous assaults. Although Chile counted 101,118 Arau-
international scholars on indigenous Mapuches have lived in the canos or Mapuches in its terri-
peoples in the construction of the nation- country for generations, their tory in 1907, Bengoa asserts
rights began to be recognized that like Argentina, Chile
state in the Americas, is a fitting tribute to only with the constitutional sought to “whiten” itself after
reforms of 1994, and their its independence in 1810. A
the late David Maybury-Lewis. authenticity as natives contin- European-American national
ues to be debated. image was constructed and
and the United States), the (p. 52). This approach freed In his chapter, José Bengoa between 1881 and 1927 the
representation of areas in Argentina from having to describes Chile as a country indigenous population was
the interior of the country as develop a policy for the incor- at the southern end of the restricted to reservations estab-
“empty” and the consequent poration of the indigenous American landmass whose lished after Pacification.
invisibilization of indigenous peoples of Patagonia into the center is contrasted with the
peoples living there were used nation-state. It implicitly pro- unconquerable south. Just as This practice of indigenous
to legitimize policies for the moted the colonization of this Argentina embarked on a relocation and geographical
conquest of these internal fron- “empty desert region,” arguing Conquest of the Desert, the restriction is also analyzed. In
tiers. These policies entailed that the Mapuches who were Chilean military launched a the case of United States, thou-

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sands of people from almost as an empty territory or a in which indigenous Brazilians This book and its role in
all the eastern tribes were territory inhabited only by sav- of the past were portrayed as presenting the work of interna-
relocated, while in Canada ages where both the natural noble savages while contem- tional scholars on indigenous
relocation affected only a few environment (a green hell) poraneous Amazonian Indians peoples in the construction of
small bands (p. 158). In addi- and its inhabitants needed to have in practice been repre- the nation-state in the Americas
tion to relocating the native be domesticated in order for sented as a “residual human- are a fitting tribute to our late
inhabitants, in the middle of wealth to be produced. During ity that was headed towards Professor Emeritus David-May-
the nineteenth century the the colonial period there was inevitable extinction” (p.102). bury-Lewis who fought to make
Chilean government organized much talk of conquering the This kind of tension between visible the indigenous groups
the colonization of its “empty” Amazon jungle. Evangelization government discourse and in the Americas, defending
southern territories by German of the savages by missionaries policy recurs in every chapter. their rights and protecting their
settlers, promoted as represen- played a central role in their Nonetheless, at the dawn of lands languages and cultures,
tatives of European civilization subordination to the colonial the 20th century the idea of aiming to stop the cultural dev-
whose presence would benefit regime. Those who resisted incorporating savage and astation so thoroughly exam-
the nation. Bengoa concludes were considered legitimate unbaptized Indians into the ined in this book.
with the affirmation that “Chile military targets in what was nation gained favor and the
has united its national territory deemed a just war to integrate state took an ever-more tutelary
and thus ‘fulfilled its destiny’ them into the nation. Pacheco and protective approach, con- María Clemencia Ramírez is
to reach the fabled south but de Oliveira discusses the Bra- sidering the natives primitive Research Associate and former
has done so by suppressing zilian imaginary in which “wild beings who did not know or Director of the Colombian Institute of
the indigenous peoples in the Indians” are said to be “the understand the white man and Anthropology and History. She holds
south, and has thus created a true and ancient lords of the his ways. As a result, the levels a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from
conflict that lasts to this day” land [constituting] indisputable of violence unleashed against Harvard University and was the
(p. 138). proof of the existence of Brazil Indians diminished, with the 2004-2005 Santo DomingoVisiting
In the case of Brazil, João before the arrival of the Por- exception of the Argentine Scholar at Harvard’s David Rock-
Pacheco de Oliveira discusses tuguese,” and “the oldest and persecution and elimination efeller Center for Latin American
the contrast between the most authentic symbols of Bra- of the Mapuches, justified by Studies. She is a Fellow of the John
coastal areas and Amazonia, zilian nationalism” (p. 100). their stigmatization as foreign Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foun-
which was also represented He evaluates the contradiction invaders. dation for the year 2009-2010.

Time for a New Toolkit in Mexico

Juan Carlos Moreno-Brid and Jaime Ros, Development and Growth in the Mexican Economy: A Historical Perspective, Oxford, Oxford
University Press, 2009, 328 pp.

A Rev i e w b y Kev i n P. G a ll a ghe r

If all you have is a hammer, visiting fellow at DRCLAS) and attempt to move beyond ideo-
all you see is nails. Mexico, Ros, a distinguished professor logical and atomistic theoreti-
however, is plagued with loose of economics at the University cal and empirical approaches
screws. These screws have of Notre Dame, have produced to an economy. Simply put,
become way too loose over the the first “development econom- the goal of growth diagnostics
past 25 years as economists ics” history of Mexico. is to figure out what the core
and politicians have hammered In contrast to other eco- binding constraints are on an
away at the wrong problems. nomic histories of Mexico, and economy, and then to work to
Such is the diagnosis of the economic history in general, loosen them.
Mexican economy conducted Moreno-Brid and Ros deploy The authors analyze the
by Juan Carlos Moreno-Brid an approach pioneered by Mexican economy from inde-
and Jaime Ros in this enlighten- two Harvard development pendence (1821) to the pres-
ing new book. Moreno-Brid, a economists, Dani Rodrik and ent financial crisis. The book
senior economist at the United Ricardo Hausmann. Referred has many findings that add to
Nations Economic Commission to as “growth diagnostics,” or contrast with those of previ-
for Latin America (and former this analytical framework is an ous histories of the Mexican

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economy. The authors find that Mexican incomes have grown first, an incorrect diagnosis of 1940 to 1970. During that
the Mexican Revolution did not less than one percent per the true binding constraints that period, average incomes grew
stunt growth as much as oth- annum. Mexico has fallen vic- the economy faces, and sec- by 3.2% per year and the gap
ers have argued, and that the tim to two financial crises (one ond, the lack of political con- between average incomes in
country was hurt much more by of its own making and now this sensus on that very diagnosis. the United States and Mexico
the Great Depression than had current one); domestic indus- Moreno-Brid and Ros see narrowed.
been previously understood. tries and investment have been Mexico’s lack of investment as If one wished to quibble
They estimate that during all but wiped out; financial the single most binding con- with parts of this otherwise
Mexico’s high-growth period instability has been persistent; straint on economic growth in excellent book, it would be
of 1940 to 1970, agricultural global competitiveness has slid; Mexico. Investment in an econ- only to note that the reader is
growth was more significant wages have been stagnant; omy leads to economic growth. left somewhat guessing as to
than had been thought, and and poverty and inequality A general rule of thumb is that the exact nature of this public
developing nations need invest- investment in industrialization,
ment to be at about 25 percent and how such policy should
This book is pioneering in its approach of GDP to maintain the growth be re-constructed in the future.
rates needed to catch up to What did industrial innovation
and striking in its findings. It is essential more developed countries. East and education policies fea-
Asia has steadily been over 30 ture back then? How might a
reading for anyone interested in economic
percent since the 1970s. country’s government develop
development in Mexico and Latin Total investment as a per- a world-class industry today?
centage of GDP in Mexico has UN economist Mario Cimoli’s
America or development economics. gone from 25 percent for the book, Developing Innovation
1979-1981 period to 20 per- Systems: Mexico in Global
cent in the 2004-2007 period. Context can serve as a useful
the economic costs of trade have remained grave. Declining investment has been companion to help answer
protection were smaller than These facts are well known the result of a fall in public these questions about Mexico’s
the literature has suggested. and not controversial. The investment (thanks in part to past, while Dani Rodrik’s One
Further, they find that Mexico’s analysis of their cause and Mexico’s numerous privatiza- Economics, Many Recipes can
recent reduction in poverty and remedy, however, is as contro- tions and weak tax base), an help formulate industrial policy
inequality is due more to a versial as it can get. overvalued exchange rate, for the 21st century.
demographic transition than to Harvard graduate Felipe which has led investors to look Overwhelmingly, however,
government poverty programs Calderón won the 2006 elsewhere, the lack of govern- this book is pioneering in its
or remittances by Mexican presidential election as a rep- ment policy geared toward approach and striking in its
migrants in the United States. resentative of the center-right- industrial competitiveness, and findings. It is essential read-
The most striking and pre- wing party, the PAN. Since the lack of financing for domes- ing for anyone interested in
scient new findings relate to taking office Calderón has tic manufacturing firms. economic development in
Mexico’s recent growth perfor- held the view that the Mexican Such a diagnosis implies Mexico and Latin America and
mance. economy is not performing well that Mexico should increase in development economics in
In contrast to growth diag- because it still has more liberal- its tax base and engage in general. In a more immediate
nostics is the prevailing “one izing, privatizing, and global- modestly expansionary mac- sense, it can help Mexican
size fits all” approach of hard- izing to do. After reading this roeconomic policy alongside policymakers and manag-
line neo-classical economists book, it does not appear that financial reforms and an ers of international financial
and right-wing policymakers. Mexico’s new president took aggressive effort to modern- institutions better understand
These folks have hammered any classes at Harvard with ize its domestic manufacturing the binding constraints to eco-
on the same diagnoses for Rodrik or Hausmann. base. If done right, the initial nomic development in Mexico
Mexico and other develop- Moreno-Brid, who is a for- increases in public investment so that they may produce a
ing nations for years: get the mer DRCLAS Visiting Scholar, could “crowd in” private invest- more sustainable development
government out of economic and Ros take issue with Calde- ment in Mexico, leading to path for Mexico’s future.
affairs, once and for all and rón’s approach—as well as sustained and more balanced
as quickly as possible! Mexico with the policies of the U.S. economic growth. Kevin P. Gallagher is an
took this advice and, from the government (which formalized Looking back, Moreno-Brid associate professor in the Depart-
mid-1980s to the present, has them through the North Ameri- and Ros show that it was a ment of International Relations at
liberalized, privatized, and can Free Trade Agreement in similar mix of policies (and Boston University and co-author of
globalized nearly all of its eco- 1994) and of the international a political consensus behind the recent book, The Enclave Econ-
nomic activity. financial institutions that sup- them) that led to Mexico’s omy: Foreign Investment and Sus-
Boy, did Mexico get ham- port this view. To the authors, golden age of economic activ- tainable Development in Mexico’s
mered. During this period, Mexico suffers from two things: ity in the 20th century, from Silicon Valley.

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Democracy Revisited across Mexico, a nation of

110 million people that shares
a 2,000-mile border with the
Jorge I. Domínguez and Michael Shifter, eds. Constructing Demo- United States. Nine years after
cratic Governance in Latin America, Third Edition, 2008, Balti- the opposition National Action
more, Johns Hopkins University Press, 412 pages Party, or PAN, defeated the
Institutional Revolutionary Party,
A Rev i e w b y Al f r e d o C o r ch a d o
or PRI, ending 71 years of one-
party rule, the verdict is still
Democracies are messy—none cracies, threatening the very out. The PAN was supposed
so more than those across Latin advances that people fought to solidify democracy, which
America. A common refrain for decades to achieve, often had been little more than a
used by academics and jour- at the cost of their own lives. word among Mexicans during
nalists alike to describe those In Venezuela, President several decades of oligarchic dency has given up, or been
democracies is usually “weak,” Hugo Chávez continues to rule until that point. Today, the forced to concede, Congress
or “fledgling.” amend the constitution to rule of law in Mexico is wither- has gained,” she writes. “….
And yet, in spite of assure his power for years to ing even before it takes root. Drug traffickers and organized
endemic poverty, weak econo- come. In Colombia, President Since 2006 more than 10,000 crime have taken advantage of
mies, rising security concerns Álvaro Uribe is accused of people have been killed in what the Mexican state is no
and growing drug violence, thinking about doing the same. drug-related violence. longer able to ensure—such as
democracy continues to take And in Argentina, economic The government’s inability a monopoly on violence.”
root across the continent, albeit calamity threatens democ- to restore order and retake And yet Levitsky argues,
with a few hiccups here and racy with a weak congress, regions of the country from “Being there in Mexico and
there. This is the thesis of the and fragile state institutions. drug traffickers has some reading the newspapers every
third edition of Constructing The president remains too growing nostalgic for the day makes you convinced that
Democratic Governance in powerful, thus hampering the semi-authoritarian PRI. The PRI, Mexico doesn’t look good …
Latin America, a 412-page checks and balances that any after all, ruled with an iron but Mexico’s long term trajec-
tome edited by Jorge I. democracy needs to fully take fist. Its corrupt governance tory is very good.” He added
Domínguez, a professor and root, notes Steven Levitsky, a provided the glue that kept that Mexico is on par with
Vice Provost for International Harvard professor of govern- society together, as it protected Costa Rica, Uruguay, Chile
Affairs at Harvard University ment and social studies, in his citizens by coddling criminals and Brazil as nations that have
and Michael Shifter, Vice chapter on Argentina. in exchange for hefty kick- emerged, or are emerging, as
President for policy of The But with the exception of backs. Often, PRI government “serious democracies.”
Inter-American Dialogue and the recent Honduran coup, officials made arrangements Nonetheless, Domínguez
an adjunct professor at the governments in Latin America with members of organized strikes an ominous note in
Edmund A. Walsh School of are “not killing voters, or steal- crime in exchange for lucrative his chapter when he warns
Foreign Service at Georgetown ing elections, or using coups kickbacks. The pacts guaran- of the generally poor “record
University. The book features to take power,” Levitsky said teed that deadly disputes were of Latin American democratic
chapters written by thirteen in an interview. “It’s difficult to taken care of internally, unlike performance.” “The key to
experts on the region. sustain democracy with high today when powerful weapons democracy remains the deci-
Even under the glare of levels of poverty so the fact and decapitations terrorize sion of its citizens,” Domínguez
media scrutiny and the criti- that democracy works even at entire communities. stated. “In their hands and on
cisms of some skeptical ana- a minimal sense represents a Almost overnight, Mexico’s their wisdom, rest the region’s
lysts and constituents alike, major achievement for Latin “Imperial Presidency” lost democratic prospects. As the
democracy in Latin America is America.” power and transferred it region approaches the 200th
proving to be a “resounding Levitsky and other experts, quickly to some members of anniversary of the start of its
success,” according to Shifter. however, warned that Latin Congress determined to hold independence, Latin America’s
“The advance may not be American governments must on to as many past paternal- democratic star shines less
irreversible,” he notes in his do more to tackle poverty istic practices as possible. The brightly than it did a decade
chapter. “But it is becoming and provide security for its result: stagnation that has made ago, but it still shines more
increasingly ingrained, and citizens, or risk seeing demo- governing Mexico more difficult brightly than it did for the pre-
voting, happily, is a tough cratic institutions weakening by stalling pivotal reforms, as ceeding generation.”
habit to break.” and populist leaders rising. Denise Dresser, a professor of
Still, economic problems, “Economic crisis and security political science at the Autono- Alfredo Corchado is a 2009
security issues and old pater- concerns are the prime killers mous Technological Institute Nieman Fellow at Harvard Univer-
nalistic practices continue to of a democracy,” he said. in Mexico City, notes in her sity and Mexico Bureau Chief for
challenge these incipient demo- Consider the drug violence chapter. “So what the presi- The Dallas Morning News.

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Whose Idea of Cuba?

Alex Harris (with an essay by Lillian Guerra), The Idea of Cuba, 2007, University of New Mexico
Press in association with the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, 136 pp

A Rev i e w B y K a el Al f o r d

“Who could photograph a thought all include a factory-produced

as a horse is photographed at full gallop bust or statue of José Martí,
or a bird in flight?” the Cuban revolutionary who
—José Martí (The epigraph from The Idea of Cuba) spent his life as an exile in
New York but devoted much of
First reactions to photographs doubts in the minds of those his work and writing to stirring shared but colonial history. The
are important. Photographs, in sensitive to cultural or gender up revolution among Cubans. view is nostalgic, gritty and it
their slippery relationship to the stereotypes. But with this book, His image is as ubiquitous as happens to be lovely.
observable world, often speak it’s important to keep looking— Lenin’s behind the Iron Curtain Harris’ portraits of women
to us with quick impact, even and reading. before 1989. Scenes that jux- are lovely too, but it’s not
before we can articulate to our- Inside its pages, in addition tapose the busts of Martí with clear on initial viewing why
selves what they are saying. to women, there are also cars. gritty streets or playful children these women are singled
For photographers, or those Rehabbed 1950s U.S. cars, in decaying or neglected envi- out. On first approach to the
who look at a lot of photogra- photographed from the inside ronments point to the contrast work, and before reading the
phy, this impact is accelerated. out so both the interior and the between the seminal ideals of text, it might seem that Cuba,
The inscription to Alex Harris’ view through the windshield that revolution and the modern which few Americans know
book holds special meaning are visible in each frame. realities of the Cuban state. at first hand thanks to the
for photographers, reminding The interiors are lit so that the It’s well worth viewing the U.S. government’s travel ban,
us that the Cuban revolutionary brightly painted trim, dash- photos and imagining what is populated largely by stun-
José Martí lived his life close board controls and car kitsch those motivations might be ning, sexually astute nymphs.
to an important moment in art stand apart from the more before reading the text in the Only after we’ve read Harris’
history, the invention of still pho- muted tropical landscapes and book. One’s shift in response essay do we lean that they are
tography. It lets us know that dilapidated mansions framed to the images before and jineteras, “jockeys”— slang
we should read on. We photog- through the cars’ windshields. after reading the text may be for women who trade sex for
raphers know quickly if we are It’s as if the viewer were a striking. money, and other commodities.
drawn to the work or not. backseat driver. The driver is At first glance, some of Har- Why are prostitutes central
The photographs in Alex absent, or a ghost, as are the ris’ visual metaphors are clear. to Harris’ idea of Cuba? We
Harris’ book have immediate few figures in the streets who Americans see Cuba through need to look beyond the photo-
appeal. They are also, for this appear in the long exposures. the economic and political rela- graphs and read Harris’ essay
photographer, immediately The cars and the landscapes tionships defined in the 1950s to learn why.
unsettling. they frame, with their patina of when the last American cars There is a final group of
The text of The Idea of age, are nostalgic and seduc- were imported and a trade images that provides a visual
Cuba delves into the history, tive in the way that old Ladas embargo halted free trade, free bridge between the previously
politics and abstract notions of and flaking Stalinist blocks in travel and the free exchange of mentioned groupings. The
what it means to be Cuban, eastern Europe are charming— ideas between the two nations. seductive portraits of women,
or at least what one American unless of course you happen to As the photographs suggest, American cars in the land-
has learned about Cuban live in one. many Cubans see the world, scape, and busts of José Martí.
identity by observing Cuba. In contrast to the cars, the literally, through the windshield gain context through a fourth
The cover image is selected women are young, supple of American cars. (Interest- set of pictures. This last set is
from the most intimate series and scantily dressed, show- ingly all the cars pictured are the most visually direct and
of images in the book— ing plenty of rich bronze skin. owned by men. The owners’ provides a fiber that tenuously
portraits of alluring, young Sometimes they are faceless, names and the location of holds the other disparate cate-
Cuban women. The woman their torsos examined in detail. the scene appear below each gories of photographs together.
on the cover is posing next In other images they look plate.) To an American view- They are portraits of statues
to a television set showing a directly at us, daring us to be ing these images, Cuba looks of women, statues on graves,
man in a military uniform. For drawn in by their frank and like a country trapped in an in gardens, hotel lobbies, of
a book that contains as many confident sexuality. economic and automotive time women as angels, mothers and
complexities as this one, the In a third set of photo- warp. Even the Cuban architec- goddesses, echoing the ideals
cover image may initially raise graphs are street scenes that ture reminds us of a particular, of the ancient Greeks or the

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sentiments of revolution as the a tourist stomping ground, a essay, interwoven with the learn little about the women
fashion of the day required. historical colony and once an images, is essential to under- in these portraits as individu-
They are iconic in their important stop on the slave standing the author’s insights als. The complexity of these
monumental roles. Some of the trade route. and intent. The text illuminates women’s lives, as Harris notes,
statues are broken; their worn In the context of this book, not only the history of Cuba but is not captured within the
expressions seem to reflect the Harris’ portraits of young also the reflections of the pho- frame. Harris is not a photog-
loss of an arm or a wing, or women seem to allude to tographer. Both are valuable. rapher immersed in Cuban life
the loss of a dream. contemporary conceptions of We learn that the work was or subculture, so much as he is
There is a resonance Cuba, just as the artists whose produced over a series of three an earnest, sensitive and well-
between these depictions of work graces Havana’s famous trips. With each visit, Harris studied traveler affixing histori-
women and Harris’ portraits Necropolis Cristóbal Colón grew more familiar with the cal and symbolic lenses on a
of jineteras, between the artful found inspiration in their mod- landscape of Cuba. First came place that is foreign and yet
stone angels and the factory- els when invoking the abstrac- the cars photos, then the Martí has become familiar to him.
produced busts, between the tions of spiritual life. Yet unlike busts, and by the final trip, he Viewing these photographs,
architecture of Havana in the sculpture, which removes the had grown familiar enough an American who’s never been
car photos and the public art viewer from the model so we with the country to travel and to Cuba may feel the push-pull
of the statues. Harris’ portraits no longer recognize the indi- communicate on his own effect of watching an interest-
without the help of a driver or ing but reclusive neighbor
a translator. This is when he through a fence. The subjects
The photographs in Alex Harris’ book began taking portraits of the become familiar, even per-
have immediate appeal. They are also, for jineteras. In his writings, he sonal, but they ultimately are
describes his interactions with mysterious, even taboo.
this photographer, immediately unsettling. these women. He paid them, This state of affairs will not
because it seemed to be the last forever. At some point,
of real women appear subtly vidual or the time and place only way to get permission likely very soon, the political
defiant, beckoning, or com- in which she lived, Harris’ por- to take their photographs. He curtain that has kept Ameri-
posed, often gazing back at traits of jineteras portray more attempted to photograph them cans and Cubans apart will
the camera as unapologetically immediate flesh and blood and in public, with street life in the rend further. Americans and
as the camera gazes at them, the particulars of each woman. background, but found that Cubans (not only the Ameri-
while the women in the statues Whether this is a tribute to or he preferred photographing can version of Cuban, but the
are frozen in iconic modes, in an over simplification of wom- them in private, where their Cuban Island version too) will
victory, in repose, in mother- anhood may come down to expressions were more reveal- have the opportunity to con-
hood, in celebration. Is the one’s perspective. ing. Certainly there is a long front each other in the flesh.
author following a tradition or What we don’t learn is tradition of voyeurism and pho- The closing essay of the book
departing from it? how these women might see tography behind these images, by historian Lillian Guerra,
Both sets of women’s themselves or what their lives and Harris touches on some of Cuban herself, is an eloquent
images remind us that the might be like. Nor do we learn his own discomforts with this treatise about the underlying
female form as muse and how their sacrifices, gains or tradition in his discussion. complexity of her national
subject (or object) is nothing circumstances are connected Harris also outlines the identity and her own powerful
new, particularly among male to their own ideas of identity efforts of the early Castro response to Harris’ images.
artists. Photographs of beauti- or country. The images them- government to eradicate pros- Hopefully, in the future,
ful young women in a book selves seem to be the product titution in exchange for equal- Americans will be able to ask
entitled The Idea of Cuba also of transactions rather than ity and revolution, followed “Island” Cubans to tell their
imply that these women have relationships, but then, perhaps by prostitution’s resurgence own stories. It will be interest-
been selected from the general that in itself is telling about when the twilight of Soviet- ing to see if more Cubans rec-
population to represent Cuba how our countries interact. funded communism gave way ognize themselves, as Guerra
in some way, not unlike the Too often, photographers’ to the economic apartheid of does, in Harris’ images. In
stone sculptures that came writing muddles the clarity of capitalism. Harris compares the meantime, this book is a
before them. their visual messages and one his personal values and atti- thoughtful contribution to a dif-
Certainly, Cuba, in one ends up wishing artists had tudes toward women with the ficult dialogue, and a worthy
U.S. stereotype, is sexy. It’s stuck to what they know best. feminist leanings of José Martí tribute to America’s yearning
warm, rhythmic (at least Cuban That is not the case with this and wonders frankly how much connection to our mysterious
music is), as well as politically book. Harris, who has collabo- more enlightened he may or island neighbor.
defiant and transgressive. Even rated extensively with Harvard may not be.
Cuban cigars are forbidden Professor Robert Coles, has In the end, it’s the portraits Kael Alford is a 2009 Nieman
and coveted. In another U.S. provided a text that is informa- in the book that leave the most Fellow. She is a photographer and
conception, Cuba is a satellite, tive and revealing. An extended lasting impression, though we documentary filmmaker.

70 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0

Dear June: spouses. Many of us at the Dear Miss Erlick, Dear Mr. Hein,
The articles about Return Peace reunion became contributors to I hope you will permit me a Thank you for your letter. We
Corps Volunteers really took these groups after viewing their general criticism of ReVista. I welcome all viewpoints in
me back many years. I too was work with families affected by am a dedicated reader of the ReVista. Your voice deserves
inspired by President Kenne- the violence in Colombia.... magazine since its inception. to be heard. As a way of
dy’s speech at the University of In a personal note, my hus- Cover to cover, almost without accommodating readers of all
Michigan (where I was at the band (former Colombia PCV) exception, every issue displays political persuasions, we now
time) and decided to become a and I revisited our sites in Boy- a strong ‘slant’ to the leftist / have a “comment” function in
volunteer when I graduated. aca. Mine (Tunja) had changed liberal camp! Why can’t we the on-line ReVista <http://
In February 2008, a so drastically that I could barely have a little more balance
reunion of former Peace Corps recognize a town which was in ReVista? I appreciate that lications>. This will allow an
volunteers was held in Carta- now three times larger than Harvard, like almost all its peer opportunity for greater discus-
gena, Colombia, celebrating forty years ago. In contrast, schools, is not known for its sion and comments.
20 years of Peace Corps ser- Sten’s first site in Gachantiva conservatism, certainly not in
vice from 1961-1981. Among had hardly changed—even the the last 50 years! Look how To the Editor:
the numerous returning volun- mural he had painted in the long President Summers lasted! I am a current undergraduate
teers (176 of us) were many room he rented was still there, However, I feel that a maga- student at the University of
who had not been back to as were the dueños. Another zine like yours should strive for Miami (FL) majoring in Inter-
Colombia for over forty years. shock was a visit to a woman a little more balance. national Relations and Latin
....One of the most moving who had named her son after An example of this is American Studies. I am writing
talks was given by José Cas- him–the name Sten was on in your Winter issue—just to you because I was really
taneda who was reunited with her cell phone! Unfortunately, received here in São Paulo. On inspired by James Ito-Adler’s
two volunteers who had helped Sten’s second site in the llanos page 56, we have the unchal- Peace Corps story in Brazil
him-–given him a place to stay was deemed too dangerous to lenged gem, “in 1964, a coup published in the ReVista Winter
and money for school–when he visit as the FARC had retreated d’etat funded by the U.S. gov- 2009 Edition.
was a young boy from a poor deeper into the llanos. We trav- ernment ....”. I recently came back from
barrio. Castaneda went on to eled throughout Boyacá with As a long time resident a semester abroad in Rio de
become the first Latin-American no sense of danger, however; it here, including the period Janeiro and your experience in
judge in New York. He regaled has remained beautiful and the when my professor Lincoln Brazil identified very well with
us with a children’s book he people as welcoming as ever. Gordon was ambassador, I what I learned there. Due to
had written about how much One of the aims of the consider this statement blatantly my experience in Brazil as a
good can be done by helping reunion was to promote tourism incorrect and academically student and volunteer with Viva
one person—both for the giver and encourage our government false. Why wasn’t there a foot- Rio (one of the biggest NGO’s
and the receiver. I think most of to reinstate the Peace Corps. note to this ‘party line’ false- in Brazil), I am applying for a
us felt we gained much more We departed Colombia with hood? Fulbright Fellowship this year
than we contributed in our a renewed desire to help the Please do not respond with to carry out a project on edu-
Peace Corps service. In Carta- people and their country and the usual reply that this was cational development and drug
gena and Santa Marta, we to return before another forty only one item in a 70-page abuse in the favelas of Rio. I
visited projects in the barrios years had past! issue or our articles are not the am hoping that if I obtain the
supported by The Colombia S incerely, responsibility of the DRCLAS. fellowship, I will come out with
Project, Amigos de Colombia, C arole Mawson, Lect u re r , Let’s see some articles writ- a valuable experience that
and the Magdalena Founda- En glish f o r ten by ‘the other side‘ to give will contribute to my studies in
tion-–groups begun by former For ei gn S t uden t s some counterbalance. graduate school just as it hap-
Colombia volunteers and their S tanf ord Congratulations on the work pened to you with the Peace
of the center. Corps and Harvard.
Ro bert Hein, MB A ‘ 6 0 , As a student, reading about
fe errata Johannah Barry’s name was spelled incorrectly in f o rmer reg ional direc t o r his experiences in Brazil and
the Table of Contents of the Spring issue of ReVista on “The Harva r d Alumni Ass ociat ion how that shaped his career
Sky Above, the Earth Below; Exploring the Universe.” She is f or L at in Ame rica path is very meaningful to me.
President of the Galapagos Conservancy and author of the Since r ely,

article, “Saving the Galápagos in the 21st Century.” Kr is tina R o sales

k .rosales@ umiami . edu

fa l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0 • ReV ista 71
non-profit org
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David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies boston, ma
1730 Cambridge St. permit no. 1636

Cambridge, MA 02138

it’s f ilm in l atin ame rica

Che to Che By Carmen Oquendo-Villar 48
FI R S T TA K E S Chilean Film: A Brief Chronicle By Iván Pinto Veas 52
Film in Latin America By Haden Guest 3

New Technologies and New Narratives 4 C UBA A ND BE Y O ND

By Brad Epps Una Entrevista con Santiago Álvarez 54
By Luciano Castillo and Manuel M. Hadad
García Márquez and Cinema 58
Golden-Epoch Cinema in Mexico 8
By María Lourdes Cortés
By Alma Guillermoprieto
Cuban Film By Victor Fowler Calzada 60
“Eréndira Ikikunari” By Juan Mora Catlett 12

Mexico’s National Museum of Cinema 16

By Claudia Arroyo Quiroz
Children in Poverty 62
Oscars for Mexican Filmmakers 19
By Andrea Rolla with Mary Catherine Arbour
By Humberto Delgado

Contesting Civilization’s Destiny 64
Brazilian Cinema Now By Nicolau Sevcenko 22
By María Clemencia Ramírez
Neither the Sertão nor the Favela By Denilson Lopes 28
Time for a New Toolkit in Mexico 66
Coconut Milk in Coca-Cola Bottles 31 By Kevin P. Gallagher
By Clémence Jouët-Pastré Democracy Revisited By Alfredo Corchado 68

Whose Idea of Cuba? By Kael Alford 69

New Argentine Cinema By Gonzalo Aguilar 34

Memory, Identity and Film By Ana Amado 38

The Three Lives of Fernando Solanas 42

By Jorge Ruffinelli

An Interview with Lita Stantic By Haden Guest 44

72 ReVista • f a l l 2 0 0 9 / w i n t e r 2 0 1 0