Conference Convenes Experts on Latin American Cinema

January 27, 2014

The LAII's upcoming annual symposium will bring together nine of the foremost scholars in Latin American and Latino cinema, pairing them with knowledgeable scholars from among the University of New Mexico's faculty. The resultant interdisciplinary conversation will focus on questions of gender, prying apart Latin American and Latino cinema vis-á-vis questions of appropriation, socio-political positioning, and the rupturing (or not) of the traditional heteronormative male gaze.

Recent and forthcoming publications from the conference participants allude to the depth of scholarship which will emerge from this interdisciplinary conversation. Below are selective examples of these publications:

Rebecca Atencio, Assistant Professor of Luso-Brazilian Literary and Cultural Studies at Tulane University, has a book titled Memory's Turn: Culture and Transitional Justice in Brazil" forthcoming in 2014 from the University of Wisconsin Press. According to the publisher, Atencio writes in "clear and engaging prose" as she "tells the story of the slow turn to memory in Brazil, a turn that has taken place in both politics and in cultural production. She shows how testimonial literature, telenovelas, literary novels, theatrical plays, and memorials have interacted with policies adopted by the Brazilian state, often in unexpected ways. Under the right circumstances, official and cultural forms of reckoning combine in Brazil to produce what Atencio calls cycles of cultural memory. Novel meanings of the past are forged, and new cultural works are inspired, thus creating the possibility for further turns in the cycle."

Linda Hall, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of New Mexico, recently published Dolores del Río: Beauty in Light and Shade (Stanford University Press, 2013), a compelling and comprehensive biography which investigates how Dolores del Río's international career "illuminates issues of race, ethnicity, and gender through the lenses of beauty and celebrity" (publisher). Among the rave reviews, Jill Watts, California State University, San Marcos, said that "this important work...finally offers us an insight into one of the most compelling stars...[and] fills a tremendous void in the literature of film history and film studies as well as Latin American/Chicana(o) studies." To learn more, see the sample chapter, "Beauty, Celebrity, and Power in Two Cultures," which the publisher makes available. Note that Hall will present on "Dolores del Rí0: Beauty in Light and Shade" as part of the conference.

Robert Irwin, Professor of Spanish and Chancellor's Fellow at the University of California, Davis, has recently released the book Global Mexican Cinema: Its Golden Age (British Film Institute, 2013) along with co-author Maria Cruz Ricalde, Professor of Humanities at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico. The publisher writes that "as the first major study of the global reception and impact of Mexican Gold Age cinema, this book captures the key aspects of its international success, from its role in forming a nostalgic cultural landscape for Mexican emigrants working in the United States, to its economic and cultural influence on Latin America, Spain and Yugoslavia. Challenging existing perceptions, the authors reveal how its film industry helped establish Mexico as a long standing center of cultural influence for the Spanish-speaking world and beyond." To learn more, see the sample chapter, "El Cine Mexicano Se Impone," which the publisher makes available - and which is, incidentally, the title of Irwin's opening keynote speech for the conference.

Sergio de la Mora, Associate Professor in Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Davis,is known for, among other publications, his book Cinemachismo: Masculinities and Sexualities in Mexican Film" (University of Texas Press, 2006), which offers "the first in-depth analysis of how Mexican cinema has both supported and subverted the construction of a gendered and sexualized national identity" (publisher). Reviewer Dr. Zuzana Pick, Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at Carleton University and author of The New Latin American Cinema: A Continental Project, wrote that this "eminently readable" book "addresses the issue of masculinity by offering new insights into historical, cultural, and political issues related to gender and sexuality through...meticulous and enlightening commentary."

Ana López, Director of the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute, Associate Professor of Communication, and Associate Provost in the Office of Academic Affairs at Tulane University, is the co-editor of, among other works, the volumes "Mediating Two Worlds: Cinematic Encounters in the Americas" (British Film Institute, 1993) and "The Ethnic Eye: Latino Media Arts" (University of Minnesota, 1996). Reviewers acclaimed both titles. Mediating Two Worlds was called "A full of in-depth analysis on the different movements, history and popular themes of Latin American Cinema," according to Intermedia, while Yhe Ethnic Eye was lauded for its "substantial wealth of information about the fraught realities involved in a non-mainstream culture's efforts at self-representation through film, video, and other related media" according to film critic and author Rey Chow. López will draw upon this range of expertise in Latin American cinema to address contemporary Brazilian culture for the second keynote of the conference.

Carl Mora, Professor Emeritus in Cinematic Arts at the University of New Mexico, is the author of Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society, 1896-2004, the most widely used English-language reference book on Mexican film. Its third edition was published in 2005. Reviewers have called it "a delightful book of social commentary on Mexico, as seen through the eye of the camera," and said that "the author's extensive research and broad background allow him to situate his discussion of Mexico's movie industry within the context of that nation's changing socioeconomic and political situation."

Laura Isabel Serna, Assistant Professor in Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, has a book titled "Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture Before the Golden Age" forthcoming in 2014 from Duke University Press. According to the publisher, Serna "draws on extensive archival research...[to explore] the popular experience of cinema-going from the perspective of exhibitors, cinema workers, journalists, censors, and fan, showing how Mexican audiences actively engaged with American films to identify more deeply with Mexico." Chon A. Noriega, author of Shot in America: Television, the State, and the Rise of Chicano Cinema, said "Laura Isabel Serna presents an original and compelling analysis of Mexican film history and the international reception of Hollywood films, making a substantial contribution to our understanding of both."

This brief survey of Latin American cinema scholarship illustrates the range of expertise which is sure to inform next week's interdisciplinary dialogue on the topic.