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Source: Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 44, No. 3/4, Latin American Cinema: Gender
Perspectives (Fall 1992 and Winter 1993), pp. 3-7
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the University Film & Video
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Over 10 years ago, Randal Johnson and opment of Hollywood cinema, and that
Robert Stam, joint editors of the first book the many national cinemas considered to
on Brazilian film published in English, make up this continental amalgam are
argued (somewhat polemically) that the themselves increasingly intranational, in
Cinema Novo movement of the 1960s and ternational, and transnational.
1970s had given way to the more diffuse
phenomenon of Brazilian cinema, and The most newsworthy national exponent
made this the title of their anthology. of Latin American cinema at the moment,
Arguably, in the interim, Brazilian cinema consonant with the impetus to ratify and
has itself given way to the even more implement the North American Free
diffuse phenomenon of a mass-mediated Trade Agreement, is the Mexican. Al
visual culture dominated by televisual and fonso Arau's Como agua para chocolate
electronic imagery, a process more accel {Like Water for Chocolate, 1991) is cur
erated but no more inexorable than else rently enjoying unequaled commercial
where in Latin America. Like Brazil's success in America. Over the past year,
Cinema Novo, the New Latin American Maria Novaro's Danz?n (1991) and
Cinema that encompassed it and other Nicolas Echevarria's Caheza de Vaca
"new cinemas" throughout the region, (1990) also enjoyed limited commercial
has given way to the even more indefinite runs in major cities. The fall 1991 Tribute
Latin American cinema, a continental en to Recent Mexican Cinema, organized by
deavor to which various national and re the Toronto Festival of Festivals, was
gional contributions rise and fall according both a recognition of and an impetus to the
to a complex set of globally affected cir renewed prominence of Mexican filmmak
cumstances. ing on North American and international
screens. In his introduction to that selec
This special double issue of the Journal of tion of 16 features and 2 documentaries,
Film and Video focuses on Latin Ameri David Mclntosh cited several internal fac
can cinema, acknowledging it as an evolv tors responsible for the production, in a
ing rubric that increasingly and necessar three-year period, of so many notable fea
ily is being expanded to include Latino tures. These ranged from more rigorous
media production in the United States and professional training to the development
Canada (and elsewhere), the contribution of several production cooperatives and
of people of Hispanic origin in the devel changes in government-sponsored and pri
vate financing (Program, 1991 Toronto In
Julianne Burton-Carvajal is coordinator of the ternational Festival of Festivals, 273).
Latin American Program at the University of During this period, Mexico has also en
California, Santa Cruz. She is also the editor of
Cinema and Social Change in Latin America: joyed a period of prosperity relative to
Conversations with Filmmakers (U of Texas P, many other Latin American economies.
1986) and The Social Documentary in Latin
America (U of Pittsburgh P, 1990).
From the mid to late 1980s, Argentina was
Copyright ? 1993 by J. Burton-Carvajal where the action was on the Latin Amer

JOURNAL OF FILM AND VIDEO 43.3^ (Fall-Winter 1992-1993) 3

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ican film front, but chroniclers of that gramming by Margarita de la Vega Hur
cinematic resurgence agree that it was tado and Latino programming by Chon
effectively squelched by 1989 for a combi Noriega, with attendant guests; the Uni
nation of economic and political reasons versity of New Mexico at Albuquerque is
(Foster 1992; Barnard 1992). Argentina sponsoring its second summer festival of
and Mexico share a long and sometimes Latin American cinema; the UCLA Film
competitive tradition as the premier Latin and Television Archive has inaugurated a
American film producers, but other coun Mexican collection that will continue to be
tries have enjoyed intermittent periods of expanded; and the Latin American pres
high-quality production, including, in the ence continues to be felt at major festivals
1980s and earlier, Cuba and Venezuela, in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Fran
both of which have struggled unsuccess cisco, and elsewhere.
fully to achieve a degree of extra-national
distribution commensurate with the inter Since the 1990 publication of John King's
est of their cinematic product. Brazil, important Magical Reels: A History of
Latin America's largest country, which Cinema in Latin America, a wealth of new
has seen a decline in annual production titles have appeared or are about to ap
from more than 100 to less than 5 features pear, among them Charles Ramirez Berg's
in barely a decade, boasts, on the one Cinema of Solitude: A Critical Study of
hand, the fourth largest television network Mexican Film, 1967-1983 (1992), Chon
in the world (Teleglobo) and, on the other, Noriega's anthology Chicanos and Film:
regional film-producing enclaves such as Representation and Resistance (1992),
the Casa de Cinema de Porto Alegre that David William Foster's Contemporary Ar
have consistently produced short, often gentine Cinema (1992), Paul Lenti's trans
experimental, or otherwise innovative lation of Jose de la Colina's and Tomas
works of the quality evidenced by Jorge Perez Turrent's Objects of Desire: Con
Furtado's Isle of Flowers (First Run/ versations with Luis Bunuel (1993; re
Icarus). viewed in this issue), Rosa Linda Frego
so's The Bronze Screen (1993), Zuzana
If contemporary production is erratic and Pick's The New Latin American Cinema:
imperiled, it is also tenacious and stub A Continental Project (1993), John King's
born. The widespread cultivation of a and Ana Lopez's Mediating Two Worlds
technically and critically grounded film (1993), A Critical Filmography of Latin
culture has encouraged not only high-level American and Caribbean Cinema, under
production but also preservation and ar the editorship of Timothy Barnard and
chivization (Colombia's Patrimonio Film Peter Rist (1994), and my own The Social
ico in Bogota is a leading example), his Documentary in Latin America (1990).
torical scholarship and publishing, and a Two journals have recently dedicated is
new crop of festivals and expositions. sues to Latin American film: #12 of Iris: A
Colombia's Cartagena Festival has, under Journal of Theory on Image and Sound,
the active involvement of Gabriel Garcia under the editorship of Kathleen New
M?rquez, taken on a Latin American em man; and #46 of Review: Latin American
phasis. The same funding source enabled Literature and Arts, under the editorship
Fundavisual Latina to mount the first of Jerry W. Carlson.
Latin American and Carribean Short Film
Festival in Caracas in 1992. Unlike the issues listed above, which en
compass a varied topical landscape, all the
In the United States, New York's Festival articles and interviews included in this
Latino's 1993 season has a major Mexican issue of the Journal of Film and Video
component; the summer 1993 Flaherty share a common though by no means
seminar features Latin American pro exclusive focus on gender as a defining

4 JOURNAL OF FILM AND VIDEO 43.3-4 (Fall-Winter 1992-1993)

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category of cinematic and cultural dis more recent film, Yo, la peor de todas (7,
course. This shared focus plays itself out the Worst Woman of All), based on Oc
in the following pages in multiple ways. In tavio Paz's account of the life and work of
the first three articles, it constitutes itself Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a 17th-century
as part of the continuing historical interro Mexican nun of unrivaled erudition and
gation and supplementation of women's creative genius, has not yet been widely
role in the film medium, as in Adrienne seen in North America. In her interview,
McLean's intriguing contribution to the Zuzana Pick concentrates on these two
growing literature on how stardom inter important and very distinct works, each of
acts with ethnicity, in which she traces which raises intriguing questions about the
how Margarita Haworth Cansino was representation of women as historical ac
shaped into Rita Hayworth; in Eduardo de tors.
la Vega Alfaro's and Patricia Torres San
Martin's essay on the little-known career The next group of articles provide close
of Mexican film pioneer Adela Sequeyro; readings of a diverse group of films. In a
and in Karen Schwartzman's painstak multifaceted essay that sets out several
ingly documented "Descriptive Chronolo directions for future research, Sergio de la
gy" of 40 years of filmmaking by women Mora analyzes Arturo Ripstein's El lugar
in Venezuela. sin Umites {Hell Has No Limits, Mexico,
1977, based on the eponymous novel by
Next, two of Latin America's most impor Chilean Jose Donoso) within the context
tant women filmmakers discuss their ca of the Mexican prostitution melodrama
reers. The name Margot Benacerraf is and the subsequent genre of the cabaret
unlikely to be recognized by English film, which in turn evolved in the 1970s
speaking readers, but for anyone versed in into the fichera variant, with its invariable
the history of Latin American cinema, this inclusion of the male transvestite or
Venezuelan's "interrupted" career is leg "queen." De la Mora argues that, while
endary. Two "documentary" films, both this inclusion makes male homosexuality
as thoroughly scripted and intricately visible in a culture where it is otherwise
structured as any fictional counterpart, largely hidden, it is a visibility based on
won major prizes in Europe upon their the most misogynistic, homophobic ste
release. (Her second film, Araya, shared reotyping. Arguing for the sociocultural
first prize at Cannes in 1959 with Alain interdependency of the terms homosexual
Resnais's Hiroshima, mon amour.). and heterosexual, de la Mora stipulates
Karen Schwartzman's interview, the first the necessity of "the scandalous differ
to appear in English and the most exten ence of the queen" to the heterosexual
sive to date in any language, reveals that, male's ability to fix his gender identity.
though Benacerraf has made no subse "Fascinating Machismo" is the first pub
quent films, her activity in the field has lished portion of an ambitious project that
continued unabated and she remains today investigates the constructions of (homo
one of the pillars of Venezuela's impres sexual) masculinities in Mexican and Chi
sive (and underrecognized) film culture. cano culture encompassing the fields of
literature, film, and the linguistic and ges
Argentine feature filmmaker Maria Luisa tural exchanges of daily life. The project
Bemberg is well known among English begins with El lugar sin Umites because "it
speaking audiences because of the success is the first Mexican film to take homosex
of her historical epic romance Camila uality seriously," investing its queen/
(1984), the first of the "films of national protagonist with the subversive power to
reconstruction" to bring international at "unmask the conventionally understood
tention to the newly resurgent, post as-monolithic concept of (hyper)
dictatorship Argentine film industry. Her masculinity."

JOURNAL OF FILM AND VIDEO 43.3-4 (Fall-Winter 1992-1993) 5

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Susana Conde's essay attends to the mul Chris Holmlund's essay, focused on two
tiple layers of discourse, enunciation, films by the Costa Rican filmmaker Patri
identification, and agency in the decep cia Howell, asks how female voices and
tively precious fm-de-siecle period piece feminist points of view are (to be) ex
Cartas del parque (Letters from the Park, pressed in traditionally patriarchal cul
1988), a collaborative project between Ga tures. She seeks to articulate both the
briel Garcia M?rquez and Cuba's premier specificity and the generality of such ex
director, Tomas Gutierrez Alea. For pressions through her description of the
Conde, the figure of the letter writer rep differences between a more conventional
resents "the personification of the ex documentary on women's work and moth
hausted, beleaguered patriarchy" and an ering roles and a more experimental, evoc
assertion of the regressive dominance of ative "rewriting of] the trope of rape at
an authoritarian past against a modernity the heart of the Latin American 'master'
premised on the primacy of airplanes over narrative," which adds a female, indige
poetic phrases. This "innocent" and nous enunciation as counterpoint to the
"apolitical" love story, with its triangula "unrooted" and disconnected discourse
tion of old and young, archaic and modern of the exogenous male conquistador.
suitors, revolves around an overdetermi Holmlund ultimately reads the function of
nation of gender roles and, Conde argues, gender in Howell's films as the expression
an unexpected assertion of female agency. of a postcolonial state, exposing "how
much national and regional identities are
S. Travis Silcox uses the potentially oxy forcibly conditioned by and through gen
moronic category "political melodrama" der" through the unmasking of "the ex
to situate Lejania (Parting of the Ways, tent to which Woman as Mother is set up
1985), the first Cuban feature to confront to be simultaneously victim and goddess."
the ideological, material, and emotional
implications of the long-deferred return to One of the important features of this issue
the island of Cubans who chose to live in is that it brings forth the research of a new
"el norte." Arguing for the subversive crop of scholars. Of the authors assembled
potential of melodrama via a dual register here, only Zuzana Pick, Patricia Aufder
of Anglo-American theoretical construc heide, and I can be considered "old
tions (Peter Brooks, Christine Gledhill, guard." Chris Holmlund has published
Janice Radway) and Cuban as well as widely on a variety of film-related topics,
Latin American critical and cinematic but this is her first piece on a Latin Amer
practice, Silcox recognizes the logic of a ican filmmaker, a focus area of her teach
return, in an "embattled and marginal ing. Patricia Torres San Martin and Edu
ized" country like Cuba, to the melodra ardo de la Vega, though widely published
matic mode so ardently rejected in the in Mexico, are making their first appear
early years of the development of that ance in an English-language journal. The
national cinema. Emphasizing the oscilla remaining authors?Susana Conde, Sergio
tion inherent in melodramatic forms, she de la Mora, Adrienne McLean, S. Travis
argues that a film like Lejania defuses sites Silcox, and Karen Schwartzman?are at
of conflict and reinscribes traditional val the threshold of what one hopes will be
ues while at the same time preparing view illustrious careers as interpreters and the
ers to cope more effectively with actual orists of film within and across the various
processes of social change. Her essay cultures that make up our ever more inter
makes an important contribution to the connected Americas.
growing literature on nationalities and sex
ualities, on the one hand, and on the I am grateful for the patient collaboration
multiple cultural manifestations of the of all the authors listed above in the al
melodramatic mode, on the other. ways already overlong process of bringing

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a collaborative publication into being, and Barnard, Timothy, and Peter Rist, eds. A
would like to acknowledge as well the Critical Filmography of Latin American
many authors whose work is not repre and Caribbean Cinema. New York:
sented here, much as I wish it could have Garland, 1994.
been, because deadlines intervened. Berg, Charles Ramirez. Cinema of Soli
One concluding and clarifying note. The tude: A Critical Study of Mexican Film,
call for contributions for a special issue 1967-1983. Austin: U of Texas P, 1992.
with a Latin American focus had been out Burton, Julianne. The Social Documen
for more than a year before I was invited tary in Latin America. Pittsburgh: U of
to come on board as guest editor. When I Pittsburgh P, 1990.
received the batch of accumulated submis de la Colina, Jose, and Tomas Perez Tur
sions, authors' names removed as befits a rent. Objects of Desire: Conversations
blind review process, I was disconcerted with Luis Bunuel. New York: Marsilio,
to realize that I recognized the majority of 1993.
the essays and that three potential contrib Foster, David William. Contemporary Ar
utors had been students of mine. Fortu
gentine Cinema. Columbia: U of Mis
nately, the three manuscripts that were souri Press, 1992.
products of my graduate seminar in Latin Fregoso, Rosa Linda. The Bronze Screen.
American film had already won favorable Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993.
reviews by an earlier set of referees, en Johnson, Randal, and Robert Stam. Bra
abling me to accept the guest editorship zilian Cinema. Rutherford, NJ: Fair
without the constraint of potential "con leigh Dickinson UP, 1982.
flicts of interest"?but not exempting me King, John. Magical Reels: A History of
from the embarassment of being too often Cinema in Latin America. New York:
acknowledged in the pages that follow. Verso, 1990.
King, John, and Ana Lopez. Mediating
Two Worlds. London, BFI, 1993.
Works Cited Noriega, Chon. Chicanos and Film: Rep
resentation and Resistance. New York:
Barnard, Timothy. "After the Military: Garland, 1992.
Film in the Southern Cone Today." Pick, Zuzana. The New Latin American
Review: Latin American Literature and Cinema: A Continental Project. Austin:
Arts 46 (Fall 1992). U of Texas P, 1993.

JOURNAL OF FILM AND VIDEO 43.3-4 (Fall-Winter 1992-1993) 7

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